Pet Dental Health Month: Caring for Your Pet’s Teeth

Pet Dental Care Month

If your dog has doggy breath he may very well have periodontal disease — a common oral health issue in dogs that can lead to serious health issues. With February being Pet Dental Health Month, the article below offers advice on how to care for your pooch’s teeth to prevent bad teeth, bad breath and gum disease, so that your pet is not only a pleasure to have around, but is happy and healthy too.

Working dogs and pets give their human partners plenty to smile about all year round. During National Pet Dental Health Month in February, our pets’ smiles take center stage. Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation’s Dr. RuthAnn Solomon, DVM, says preventive dental care can increase your pet’s overall health and potentially decrease future veterinary bills.

“Oral health maintenance is just as important as keeping your pets’ vaccinations up to date,” says Dr. Solomon. “Periodontal disease is the most common health problem that veterinarians see in their patients, and it can lead to serious systemic conditions, but it is preventable. Great advances have been made in veterinary dentistry and there’s a wide array of options available for pet owners.”

Fidelco is Connecticut’s only guide dog school. It breeds, trains and places its own unique “breed within a breed” of German Shepherd Guide Dogs for people who are blind. The non-profit organization relies solely on the gifts and the generosity of individuals, foundations, corporations and civic organizations.

Dr. Solomon offers the following tips for pet owners:

Have your pet’s teeth examined by your veterinarian during your annual visit: Early detection and correction of dental disease is best! If needed, your vet can perform a thorough dental scaling and polishing to give you a head start on developing healthy dental hygiene for your pet.

Try to brush your pet’s teeth on a daily or weekly basis: The easiest way to get your pet used to regular at-home brushings is to start when they’re young. Brushing can be gradually introduced to older pets. The American Veterinary Medicine Association offers a video providing step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth.

Never use human toothpaste on pets: The ingredients can be toxic to animals. Ask your veterinarian which dental health products are appropriate for pets. Also, dogs can’t rinse and spit like humans, so the best toothpaste for dogs is one with enzymatic action – look for the the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. Also, refer to the VOHC website for a list of approved products.

Pay attention to signs and symptoms of dental disease: Untreated dental infections can spread to the heart and other organs and quickly become life-threatening. Regular dental checkups are essential to help maintain your pet’s dental health. If you notice any of the symptoms below, take your pet to your veterinarian as soon as possible:

*Bad breath—If it’s beyond the usual “doggy breath,” it may be a sign that periodontal disease has already started.
*Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth.
*Reluctance to eat hard foods.
*Red swollen gums and brownish teeth.

Treats: There are some dental chews on the market that are specifically designed to help control plaque and tartar buildup. Look for dental chews accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) and ask your veterinarian if they’re right for your pet.

If you give your pet dental treats, chews, or toys: Consult with your veterinarian first to ensure they are safe and effective. Avoid toys that are abrasive and can wear down the teeth. If your dog is an aggressive chewer, choose softer toys, rawhide or other chews that soften to avoid possible tooth damage. Always supervise your dog when he is chewing on a toy.

Follow Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation on Facebook for more tips and to participate in the Pet Dental Health Month “Show Us Your Smile” photo contest!


Medium Tether Tug Dog Toy
By Brambleberries Photography, via Flickr
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