In 2014, VPI policyholders spent more than $12.2 million on dental conditions and procedures, the fourth most common type of claim submitted to the company last year and an eight percent increase from the previous year.
Preventive oral care is not only necessary for pets, it's a financially sound choice for pet owners. In 2014, the average claim amount for pet teeth cleaning was $171. In contrast, the average claim amount for treating dental-related disease was $212.
Periodontal disease, a condition caused by residual food, bacteria and tartar that collect in the spaces between the gum and tooth, accounted for the most dental claims received by VPI last year— more than 26,800.
Tooth infections, inclusive of cavities and abscesses, accounted for the second most common dental-related claims, totaling more than 14,200. Infections of the teeth are typically the result of untreated tooth decay, cracked or fractured teeth, or severe periodontal disease.
Poor dental care can also be linked to severe health issues and shorter lifespans in dogs and cats. The bacteria associated with tartar buildup and periodontal disease can contribute to heart, liver and kidney problems.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three. VPI encourages pet parents to have their pets' oral health evaluated bi-annually by a veterinarian.
"Regular veterinary examinations are critical because they include an oral health and dental evaluation, just like when we go to the dentist," says Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI.
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
For more information on Pet Dental Health Month, visit the AVMA website.