February is Pet Dental Month! Is Dog Teeth Cleaning Really Necessary? The importance of cleaning dogs' teeth is starting to become more and more apparent as veterinary medicine advances. At first it started with pet owners complaining about their dogs' bad breath and wanting solutions as veterinarians investigated the problem further, a disturbing recognition came to light: at least 80% of dogs over 2 years of age (and close to the same number of cats) suffer from some level of pet dental disease. Pets with periodontal disease struggle with excruciating pain that they can't communicate to their owners, a loss of appetite and sometimes teeth, and deteriorating health from bacterial infections that can invade the bloodstream and move on to internal organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. Yes, regular dental cleaning is one of the secrets to your pet living a long healthy life. Symptoms of Pet Dental Disease Your pet may be one of the 80% in need of pet dental care if he or she: Has very foul breath, drools excessively, has red, swollen and/or bleeding gums, has loose or missing teeth, has crusty, yellow or brown buildup on the teeth, has chew toys stained with blood, seems in pain when eating or drinking (or is reluctant to do either of those activities), has any cysts, lumps or tumors on or under the tongue or on the gums, has never had a pet dental checkup. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, the importance of cleaning dogs' teeth will be immediately apparent. But keep in mind: many pets hide their dental pain well; so even if no symptoms are readily apparent, there may still be a problem, particularly if your pet has never had a dental checkup. So schedule an appointment as soon as you can whether symptoms are apparent or not. The Importance of Cleaning Dogs Teeth There are two critical aspects to pet dental health: 1. Professional veterinary dental cleanings (at least once a year as recommended by the AAHA) Keep in mind that a regularly-scheduled dog dental cleaning costs far less than having to treat organ and tissue damage caused by unchecked dental disease. Your veterinarian will thoroughly examine your pet's teeth under anesthesia. The anesthesia is important because your pet needs to remain absolutely still during the cleaning process; the dental tools are sharp and a nervous flinch from even the calmest pet can lead to injury. This will also enable your veterinarian to give the most thorough cleaning and check for any other problems. If your pet's dental problems are severe, your veterinarian can also perform extractions or other oral surgery. 2. A daily dental hygiene routine at home: If you're still asking, "Is dog teeth cleaning really necessary," remember that daily brushing will not only keep your dog dental cleaning costs down, it will give your pet a longer, healthier, less-painful life. Without regular brushing, plaque builds up and becomes cement-like tartar that becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. This is the bacteria that can damage gums, facial bones, teeth and internal organs. If you are not sure about how to train your pet to accept a daily tooth brushing, your veterinarian and their Hospital team can give you advice, instructions and even outfit you with the appropriate toothbrushes and toothpastes that will work for your pet. (NOTE: Do not use human toothpastes for your pet as these can upset your pet's stomach. Some may contain Xylitol, which can be deadly for you pet. Besides, specially-formulated pet toothpastes come in yummy flavors like chicken, tuna and peanut butter; flavors more enjoyable for your pet!) If you have questions about dental care contact Dr. Norette L. Underwood of the Trumann Animal Clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 870-483-6275.