February is National Pet Dental Health Month and although it is only 1 month to raise awareness for our pets' teeth, we should attempt to address their pearly whites year-round.
If you have a small dog like I do, you may have more issues with dental problems. Usually Yorkies, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas tend to be some of the cutest dogs with the most problematic mouths, that aren’t so cute. By the time cats and dogs are about 3 years old, you will start seeing signs of periodontal disease. One of the most obvious will be what my vet and I like to call “yuk mouth”.
To get a little more detailed, our late Doxie Lexi used to have what we referred to as “lake water mouth”, and our adorable Emee has “fish-butt breath”. Ha, Ha, Ha, yes, that’s what we say to people when they go in for a kiss! Bad breath is a very common and noticeable sign that periodontal disease has settled in. Other signs may be drooling, yellow or brownish tartar build up on the exterior of the teeth, and more severe symptoms may be pawing at the mouth or sneezing if the tooth has abscessed and possibly perforated the cavity to the nose.
You will need to call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment with your pet for a proper and professional diagnosis.
We know the main issues of the "yuk-mouth" goes far beyond the smell, but the major health conditions that follow from the progression of the bacteria traveling like heart disease, which will ultimately be a shorter life with your pet.
So how can we prevent the above-mentioned issues? Daily (ha ha) not in my home, but weekly brushings, or wiping with a nice damp cloth when the brush won't go over well. If the teeth are in need of greater help, you may need to schedule a “dental” with your veterinarian to make sure that all of the tartar and bacteria are removed properly.
I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the “non-anesthesia” teeth cleaning and unfortunately from what I've learned from more than one professional, the administers do not get under the gums properly and an underlying infection might go unnoticed that could cause more damage than actually benefit your pet. This includes the kits you can buy online and use at home. Please save the pet dentals for the professionals and keep the regular "brushings" and "wipings" for yourself. At one point, I read that some places have banned these cleanings but you can always get advice from your veterinarian.
A tip for finding the perfect toothbrush for your pet…if you just can’t find one, get a toothbrush for a human baby and trim the bristles down. Make sure it is washed really well to ensure there aren’t any little pieces of bristle left, and then you can use it like I did for our pets. I also recommend getting separate brushes for each pet. Like people, you can transfer germs and they're inexpensive.
But, if you have a difficult time brushing your pet’s teeth, there are many dog washes, groomers, and of course your vet, who can brush them for you if you just can’t bring yourself to do it. Many local groomers and dog washes are giving free teeth brushing or discounts in honor of this very important month, just ask yours today and you may be surprised to hear the specials they have.
A great video on the importance of brushing your pet's teeth with some signs of tartar can be seen here by MonkeySee, and it was recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association, who also states that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs even though it's completely preventable. So be sure to watch this video as it could be the first step in preventing periodontal disease for your pet!
Happy Brushing and good luck!