When we decided to get a dog last year I did what I do best and that is research. I love learning as much as possible before making life-changing decisions. Trust me, a dog is more life-changing than I knew. I learned about choosing a dog that fit my lifestyle instead of simply going for a cute face. I did some basic research about the cost of owning a dog, and I was likely better prepared than many this time around. But the one thing I never considered was dental health.
• According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will develop some form of oral disease by the age of three.
• Not addressing your pet’s dental health could lead to more severe secondary diseases like heart or kidney disease.
• By not brushing your pet’s teeth, formations of bacteria, food particles, and saliva combine and collect between the gums and teeth, which progresses into tartar buildup. Over time this can develop into periodontal disease, which erodes at the gums and can result in bad breath, bleeding gums, and pain.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. I learned in my six-week dog behavior class to help my dog become familiar with being touched in and near places such as paws, eyes, and teeth. I figured she if she stressed this more than once in a class for which I was paying money then maybe it was important. Every night as we do our night-night routine I check everything as suggested.
When we had our first vet appointment Coconut jumped happily on to the table and let himself be gently poked and prodded. I felt like a blue-ribbon dog parent when the vet complimented me on the great job I was doing checking all the key areas.
People ask me why a yearly vet appointment matters. Which continues to surprise me since I am a writer and marketing professional, not a vet. Besides the obvious shots that are critical for your dog’s health, an annual dental check is critical for your dog’s teeth. A veterinarian is not a dentist but he or she is going to be able to check for early signs of a problem.
If you notice any of the following you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your vet.
• Bad breath
• Extra teeth or baby teeth that have not fallen out
• Broken or loose teeth
• Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
• Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
• Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
• Pain in or around the mouth
• Bleeding from the mouth
• Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
It’s important to remember that while I might become irritable and yell or cry when I have a toothache or other dental problem I probably won’t bite you. But a dog in pain for dental or other problems could bite so always be careful.
Coconut has owned us for over a year, yes, he owns us, not the other way around, so that means we have had two vet visits. At both of them, she complimented us on Coconut’s teeth. We’ve often heard our pets called fur babies. They are our children in many cases. Just like human children need nutritious food, annual wellness checks, age appropriate vaccinations, daily dental care, and annual dental checks, so do our fur babies. The big difference between human and dogs when it comes to dental health is that I didn’t encourage my children to gnaw on bones. With Coconut I think I spend more on bones than on food and that not only trains him to only chew on toys and bones versus my items, it helps keep his teeth clean and in great shape.
The following article from the American Veterinary Medical Association provides not only a quick overview of dog dental health but also has a video on how to brush your dog’s teeth. Always talk to your vet about dental care and make sure to follow recommendations on food, dental care products, etc.