Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance, marks February as Pet Dental Health Month by reminding pet owners about the importance of regular dental care. In 2016, Nationwide members spent more than $16.1 million on pet dental conditions and procedures, the fourth most common type of pet insurance claim submitted to the company last year. The 80,000 pet insurance claims submitted last year reveals a 16 percent increase from the year prior.
Preventive oral care is not only necessary for pets, it’s also a financially sound choice for pet owners. In 2016, the average claim amount for pet teeth cleaning and polishing was $178. In contrast, the average claim amount for treating dental-related disease was $214. Periodontal disease accounted for the most dental pet insurance claims received by Nationwide last year— more than 29,000. Tooth infections accounted for the second most common dental-related claim, totaling more than 21,100.
Poor dental care can 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.
“Our pets need dental care and checkups just like we do,” says Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide. “Regular veterinary examinations are critical for pets’ oral health because they include dental evaluations. Your veterinarian may also recommend brushing your pets’ teeth between veterinary visits to prevent a buildup of tartar along the gum line, which causes inflammation or pain when the gums or mouth are touched, and can making eating painful.”
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 3. Nationwide encourages pet parents to have their pets’ oral health evaluated bi-annually by a veterinarian.
According to the AVMA, signs of dental disease in dogs and cats include:
- 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 food up and then spitting it out
To help offset medical costs associated with dental conditions in pets, Nationwide’s most popular pet insurance plan, Whole Pet with Wellness, is the only all-inclusive pet insurance plan in the U.S. that offers coverage for wellness services, including dental cleanings.