In 2013, VPI policyholders spent more than $11.2 million on dental conditions and procedures, the fourth most common type of claim submitted to the company last year.
Preventive oral care is not only necessary for pets; it's financially sound for pet owners. In 2013, the average claim amount for pet teeth cleaning was $170. In contrast, the average claim amount for treating dental-related disease was $221.
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 25,000.
Tooth infections, inclusive of cavities and abscesses, accounted for the second most common dental-related claims, totaling more than 10,600. 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.
Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI recommends, "Regular veterinary examinations are critical because they include an oral health and dental evaluation, just like when we go to the dentist. Your veterinarian may also recommend that you brush your pets' teeth between veterinary visits, with the goal of preventing the buildup of yellow-brown crusts of tartar along your pets' gum line. Tartar can lead to inflammation or pain when the gums or mouth are touched, even during the simple process of your pet eating food."
The AVMA's list of signs that dental disease has already started in a dog or cat includes:
- Red swollen gums or brownish-yellow tartar on teeth
- Bad breath Bleeding from the mouth
- Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth
- Reluctance to eat – for example, picking it up and then spitting it out
Pet Dental Health Fast Facts:
- Puppies have 28 temporary teeth that begin to show at about 3 to 4 weeks of age
- They have 42 permanent teeth that generally grow in between 5 to 7 months of age
- Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue among dogs
- Kittens have 26 temporary teeth that begin to show at about 2 to 3 weeks of age
- They have 30 permanent teeth that generally grow in by 5 to 6 months of age
- Other dental issues that are common in cats include tooth resorption and ulcerative stomatitis
VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit petinsurance.com.
Image via AVMA.org