February is National Pet Dental Month

Dog breath is no joke! February is Pet Dental Month. Now is a good time to take a peek inside of your pet’s mouth. Don’t just look at the front teeth. Look at the back teeth too. ( tartar & plaque often hide there.) Some signs of dental disease include: bad breath, red or bleeding gums, difficulty eating, drooling & loose or broken teeth.

Most pets begin to show early signs of dental disease around age 3. But there are some factors that influence your pet’s risk.  Many small/toy breeds retain their baby teeth even after their adult teeth erupt. Puppies begin losing their baby teeth around 3-4 months of age. If they have not fallen out by then they may  need to be extracted because those extra teeth trap food and bacteria.  Some short nosed (brachycephalic) breeds like pugs have overcrowded or crooked teeth which contribute to dental disease. As a rule small breeds seem to build up tartar faster than large breeds and therefore may need professional cleanings more frequently. Certain diseases can also increase your pet’s risk of dental disease such as feline leukemia and lupus.

Home dental care is an important step in keeping your pet’s mouth healthy. Veterinarians recommend daily or at least twice weekly brushings. Incidentally, only use PET toothpaste. These are safe for animals, are flavored, and won’t harm your pet if swallowed. Human toothpaste can be toxic if ingested. If you’re at a loss as to how to brush your pet’s teeth, ask your veterinarian to show you.

While daily brushing is recommended, it does not eliminate the need for professional cleanings periodically.  This requires anesthesia . AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) guidelines state that “Cleaning a companion animal’s teeth without general anesthesia is considered unacceptable and below the standard of care…” 2/3 of an animals tooth is below the gum line where you can’t see it. Therefore anesthesia is required to scale beneath the gum line, and to assess bone & tooth root health.

If you’re not sure if your pet needs his/her teeth cleaned ask your vet to do a dental exam. If your vet recommends a cleaning, try to schedule it as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your pet is in pain & needs to have a mouth full of teeth extracted.

February is a great time to schedule those cleanings because most vets (including us) offer a discount.