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Pet Dental Health Tips

February is Pet Dental Health Month. Now is a good time to consider beginning a regular routine with your pet to prevent costly dental problems down the road.

Why be Concerned With the Health of Your Pet's Teeth?

Dog dental care if far more important than most people realize. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs show signs of gum disease by age three.

Dogs can get cavities, plaque and tartar buildup just like we do. Small dogs are more susceptible than larger breeds simply because the larger dogs tend to spend more time chewing on bones and treats.

Regular preventive dental care can help keep your dog's teeth healthy and pearly white.

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Disease

One of the first signs of dental disease in dogs is bad breath. Studies show that 98% of dogs with bad breath are suffering from periodontal disease, a result of plaque build up. If left untreated, this can lead to a bacteria infection, which can enter the bloodstream and spread to your dog's kidney, liver, heart and even their brain.

Other signs include excessive drooling, or reluctance to chew.

What You Can Do

As a rule of thumb, your dog's teeth should be cleaned at least twice a week. Brushing with a special toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets is the most common way to accomplish this. There are other options though, if your pet just will not sit still and open wide.

One of the easiest things you can do is feed your dog healthy treats that he can chew on. Many dogs enjoy munching on baby carrots. See our list of what foods you should never feed your dog by clicking here. A diet of dry kibble can help as it scrapes the teeth to help keep them clean. Dry dog treats such as biscuits can have the same effect. You can also purchase special dental chew treats at most pet stores.

Beginning a dental care regimen early in your puppy's life will make it easier for them to acclimate to the routine. Most puppies have all of their adult teeth by the age of six months.

Never use human toothpaste or oral rinses on your pet. These products are not designed to be swallowed and unless you can train your dog to spit like humans do (highly unlikely), it could make them sick. You can purchase products made specifically for dogs at your local pet store. Pet toothpaste even comes in yummy flavors that your dog will love, to help make the experience more pleasurable.

You can train your dog to accept the toothbrushing experience by starting gradually and slowly. Begin by just rubbing your finger around his mouth, and inside along the gums if he will let you. Put a little tasty toothpaste on your finger so he can experience the taste. You can wrap a piece of gauze on your finger with a dab of toothpaste.

Work your way up to using a soft rubber finger brush that you can purchase at your local pet store. Once he accepts this readily you can move on to a pet toothbrush.

Keep the sessions short and positive, always ending with a tasty treat or other reward such as a game of fetch. That way your dog will associate teeth cleaning with something fun or pleasurable.

When to See The Veterinarian

Your veterinarian should do a routine dental examination annually for adult dogs. In some cases professional teeth cleaning may be recommended and can be done by your veterinarian. This usually requires your pet to be put under a general anesthesia. During the procedure, your dog’s teeth and gums will be examined closely for problems. The teeth will then be scaled and polished. If dental problems are noted, tooth extractions could become necessary.

Consult your veterinarian if you find broken, missing or crooked teeth, red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums, bumps or growths in the mouth, or if your dog is in obvious pain or discomfort.