February is National Pet Dental Health Month and also the month known for love! One way to show your pets love is to be cognizant of their healthcare, and that includes their teeth.
Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease by the age of three? Based on statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), it’s true!
There are many things we can do as pet caregivers to ensure that our dog’s teeth and gums are in good health, starting with at-home care:
- Conduct Frequent Brushing (with a toothbrush or finger brush and dog toothpaste, dental wipes, dental spray, etc.)
- Check Teeth, Gums, and Mouth (for growths, broken teeth, discoloration, decay, bleeding gums, swelling, soreness, bad breath)
- Watch for Refusal to Eat (due to dental or mouth pain)
- Provide Chew Toys
- Give Occasional Dental Chew
- Give Healthy Crunchy Treats
- Veterinarian-Approved Diet for Dental Health
- Have Periodic Veterinarian Dental Check-Ups
Brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the best things to do for dental health. There is a great selection of aids to help with home dental care ranging from a toothbrush or a finger brush along with a toothpaste specifically for dogs (or cats), to pet wipes for teeth and sprays.
So, just how often should you brush your dog’s teeth? “At least three times a week” is the recommendation from the AVMA.
To check if dental aids, treats, or foods are good for your dog or cat, first always check with your own veterinarian. You can also check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VPOC) list of accepted products for both dogs and cats.
“Most dental disease occurs below the gum line, where you can't see it. Bacteria that you can't see can damage the tissues connecting the teeth and jaw. That's why it's so important to have your veterinarian regularly examine your pet's teeth….”
~American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
Dental disease, if let go, can lead to your dog having other serious and possibly life-threatening issues involving his/her jaw, heart, kidneys, and more. So how do you know if your pets have dental disease if you already clean and check their teeth and they look good on the surface?
Since a problem could be unseen, the AVMA states, “Most dental disease occurs below the gum line, where you can't see it. Bacteria that you can't see can damage the tissues connecting the teeth and jaw. That's why it's so important to have your veterinarian regularly examine your pet's teeth and perform regular professional dental cleanings.”
If you pet does require a cleaning procedure by a veterinarian, there are some specific questions the American Veterinarian Dental College (AVDC)recommends pet parents ask prior to the procedure:
- How is my pet monitored under anesthesia? Is the pet intubated and their airway protected from debris?
- Who will be monitoring the anesthesia?
- How often do you perform this procedure?
- What equipment do you have to perform this procedure?
- Does my pet need advanced imaging like intra-oral radiographs or CT? Do you use sterile equipment on each patient?
- Who performs your surgical extractions?
- Are there alternatives and options to treat my pet’s disease or problem?
- Could a root canal be performed to save any fractured teeth?
- What are the risks and complications associated with this dental procedure?
- Who will be with my pet as it recovers from anesthesia?
- Does your facility offer 24-hour care?
- Who do you refer to if my pets needs 24 hour care?
Check out the AVMA’s step-by-step video of how to brush your pets’ teeth: