February is Pet Dental Health Month

Pet owners spend more on dental conditions than prevention

February is Pet Dental Health Month, and Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI), the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance, is marking the occasion by reminding pet owners about the importance of regular dental care for their four-legged loved ones. In 2012, VPI policyholders spent more than $9.7 million on dental conditions and procedures, the sixth most common type of claim submitted to the Company during the year.

Preventive oral care is not only necessary for pets; it's financially sound for pet owners. In 2012, the average claim amount for pet teeth cleaning was $166. In contrast, the average claim amount for treating dental-related disease was $227. Periodontal disease, a condition caused by residual food, bacteria and tartar that collect in the spaces between the gum and tooth (resulting in infection that can spread to the bone), accounted for the most dental claims received by VPI last year— more than 22,000. Tooth infections, inclusive of cavities and abscesses, accounted for the second most common dental-related claims, totaling more than 7,700. Infections of the teeth are typically the result of untreated tooth decay, cracked or fractured teeth, or severe periodontal disease.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an organization dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three. VPI encourages pet owners to have their pets' oral health evaluated bi-annually by a veterinarian. Dr. Carol McConnell, VPI's chief veterinary medical officer recommends, "Between regular veterinary examinations, pet owners should look for the warning signs of gum disease such as bad breath, red and swollen gums, yellow-brown crusts of tartar along the gum lines, and bleeding or pain when the gums or mouth are touched."

The American Veterinary Dental College's formal list of indicators that a dog or cat may have dental disease includes:

>>Bad breath

>>Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar

>>Pet not comfortable with owner touching within the mouth area

>>Drooling or dropping food from the mouth

>>Bleeding from the mouth

>>Loss of appetite or weight loss


Pet Dental Health Fast Facts:


  • -Puppies have 28 temporary teeth that begin to show at about three to four weeks of age
  • -They have 42 permanent teeth that generally grow in between five to seven months of age
  • -Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue among dogs


  • -Kittens have 26 temporary teeth that begin to show at about two to three weeks of age
  • -They have 30 permanent teeth that generally grow in by five to six months of age
  • -Other dental issues that are most common in cats are tooth resorption and ulcerative stomatitis