February is National Pet Dental Month – Keeping Your Pup’s Pearly Whites Clean and Healthy
In honor of February being ‘National Pet Dental Month’ I want to take some time to share some tips and information with you so that you can properly care for your furry companion’s pearly whites and keep them gleaming white and healthy.
Basic Care and Maintenance for Your Dog’s Teeth
Many people do not realize the importance of caring for their dog’s teeth. As dogs age, the need for dental care increases. The best way to ensure proper dental health for your dog is to start while they are very young.
“More than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the time they’re three years old. This can lead to serious health problems,” explained Dr. Brook Niemiec, a board certified specialist in veterinary dentistry. “Make sure every veterinary checkup includes a thorough inspection of your pet’s teeth and gums, and a discussion on how to keep them healthy and clean between visits.”
Look for signs of tooth decay and oral disease by inspecting your pet’s teeth regularly. Bad breath, discoloration and tartar are all indications of problems that could lead to serious health risks with the potential for not only damaging teeth and gums but internal organs.
Regular visits to your veterinarian should include a complete checkup of your pet’s teeth. Your veterinarian should clean plaque and tartar off your pet’s teeth if necessary. When tartar—created by the mixture of food debris, saliva and bacteria in the mouth—is allowed to build up it can accumulate between teeth and gums causing tooth loss, and result in an infection that could enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart or other internal organs.
Many dogs do not like their mouths touched. It is important for you as a dog owner to desensitize them to being handled like this at a very young age. The veterinarian is always going to need to examine your dog’s mouth and you do not want to have problems with this. The best way for you to get your dog used to having his mouth touched is to begin touching it when you first get your pup. Make sure to touch the lips, open the mouth, and touch the teeth in a calm and relaxing way for about five minutes each day until your pup is used to being handled in this way. Make this a regular part of your interaction with your dog so he remains calm when you are doing any kind of preventive dental care.
Most veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily. Many manufacturers make special toothpaste and brushes for dogs. You do not ever want to use human toothpaste on dogs as it may be harmful to them. To get your dog used to having his teeth brushed, you may want to start by putting a dab of dog toothpaste on a cotton ball and rubbing it over his teeth. Toothpaste for dogs is usually quite tasty to them, so they shouldn’t mind this. You can then try a finger toothbrush, available at your veterinarian’s office or pet supply store. Eventually, especially for larger breeds, you will want to graduate to a regular dog toothbrush. Regular brushing will help prevent the buildup of calculus and debris on your dog’s teeth.
Another way to help prevent calculus and buildup on your dog’s teeth is by using rawhide chews specially formulated for dental care. Many companies manufacture these chews. One of the best available is by C.E.T. Most veterinarians carry C.E.T. dental health products. C.E.T. Chews C.E.T. chews are formulated with an enzyme that helps keep plaque from forming and prevents the buildup of bacteria. Also, the natural abrasion of rawhide chews helps keep teeth healthy. C.E.T. also makes a chew that contains chlorhexadine which has antimicrobial properties. and there’s also Greenies Dental Treats.
Even with proper preventive measures, most dogs will eventually need a dental cleaning from your veterinarian. If your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning, it is important that you follow through. If your dog develops dental disease, harmful bacteria can pass through into the bloodstream causing potentially serious problems such as kidney infections and infections involving the heart valves.
A dental cleaning performed by your veterinarian is much like a human dental cleaning, however your dog will need to be sedated. The anesthesia is light and with today’s technology is extremely safe. Many veterinarians have anesthesia monitoring systems just like those used in human medicine. A thorough exam will be performed to determine if any teeth need to be pulled or repaired. Some veterinarians will do x-rays of the teeth to find any cracks or diseased teeth. After this, a trained member of the veterinary staff will perform a dental cleaning. First, they will scale the teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gum line. This will be done with both hand instruments and ultrasonic scaling equipment. After this, the teeth will be polished, which will make them smooth and help prevent plaque from adhering to them. Most veterinarians will also do a fluoride treatment. This is to help strengthen the enamel and prevent plaque from forming. If any teeth are diseased or broken, your veterinarian may pull them. Some veterinarians who specialize in dental care will perform root canals and other intensive dental work. Most veterinarians will put your dog on a treatment of antibiotics to help prevent bacterial infection.
It is very important to take good care of your dog’s teeth to keep them healthy and to prevent infections. Always follow your veterinarian’s advice and if you have further questions, consult your veterinary staff or pet professional. Just as it’s important for us to take care of our teeth and gums, it’s equally important that we care for our pet’s.
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