10 Things Your Veterinarian NEEDS You to Know About Pet Dental Health Month

Published: 02/03/2021

When your pet smiles, do you see sparkling pearly whites? White teeth and healthy pink gums mean that your dog’s mouth is healthy. A canine mouth in good shape ensures that your canine kid is free of oral disease and discomfort.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month! It’s time to remind pet parents that cleaning a dog’s teeth is just as crucial as keeping the human mouth free of bacteria and the gums healthy.

Sadly, despite the love that many dog parents bestow on their pups, cleaning their teeth is not always high on the list. In fact, about 80% of dogs have some form of dental disease by the age of three (as per a study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland).

That’s why veterinarians all over North America want you to take care of your dog’s teeth every day. Here are 10 Things Your Veterinarian NEEDS you to know about Pet Dental Health Month.

1) Know the signs of dental disease.

Knowing the signs of dental problems like red gums and decayed teeth is important. Periodontal disease is noted in four stages. Plaque, inflamed gums, gingivitis, and severe periodontitis are the complications that can result from a lack of dental care.

  • Bad breath (also known as doggy breath)
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Loose teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Upset stomach
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
2) Dental disease can start early.
Dogs can start to have dental disease as young as 3 years old. Does your canine kiddo have yellow teeth? Is their breath less than fresh? Do they hesitate to eat a crunchy dog biscuit? Even though your dog is young, dental care is needed.

3) Taking care of your pet's dental health is an important step to overall health.
Watching for signs of dental issues and pain is an absolute must. Infection (even low-grade) can have an impact on your dog’s overall health picture. Systemic diseases like kidney disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease can be related to an unhealthy mouth.

4) An ounce of prevention goes a long way.
Brushing your pooch’s teeth every day is the best way to care for them. Not all dogs cooperate, and yes, pet parents sometimes forget. Four-leggers used to the whole procedure can get used to it and accept it just like any other grooming step. Brush your dog’s teeth every two or three days at the minimum. It’s the best way to avoid expensive dental procedures down the road.

5) Regular dental checkups are essential.
Brushing Fido’s teeth is part of excellent care. But an annual checkup, so the dentist can assess your dog’s dental health, is a necessity. Your veterinarian may recommend an in-clinic cleaning (scaling and checking the teeth), which involves a morning’s procedure with prior blood work to determine the anesthetic required.

6) Oral disease affects your dog's entire system and body.
We mentioned illnesses like diabetes and kidney disease. Your veterinarian needs you to know that your pet’s entire well-being is affected by the condition of the teeth. Your pet will be withdrawn if there is pain and they may lose their appetite because eating causes discomfort. Your normally playful pooch may resort to sleeping and resting to try and find relief from the dental issues.

7) Use vet-approved dental products.
Many pet parents will use a few different products to help keep their dog’s mouth in tip-top shape. Your veterinarian can help you choose the safest and most effective products. Beef flavored toothpaste? Your dog will love it! (Never use human toothpaste because it may contain ingredients like xylitol, which is extremely toxic to dogs.) Products like dental chews should be approved by the veterinarian also, to avoid damage to the teeth.

8) Oral exams catch other issues, too.
When you take your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup, they’ll give your dog a thorough exam. Part of the dental exam involves looking at your furry buddy’s head, neck, and face. Sometimes lumps or tumors can be discovered that the pet parent was not aware of.

9) Anesthesia and x-rays are essential.
Brushing your pupster’s teeth is part of the all-important oral care. But at some point, every dog should have a thorough cleaning. This involves anesthesia so the dog is still and safe as their mouth is looked at with sharp implements. The checkup may require x-rays which give a unique and complete look at the mouth. This type of exam can catch oral disease early, preventing things like tooth loss.

10) Dogs hide dental pain.
This is one of the top things your veterinarian needs you to know. Canines are stoic creatures and may hide their pain from you. Getting adequate dental care is part of pet parenting and taking the best care possible of your dog is exactly what you want to do, right?

Tips for your dog's oral health
  • Don’t give your dog too many treats. Veterinarian recommended snacks and goodies are the way to go to avoid too much sugar and other unhealthy ingredients.
  • Brush your dog’s teeth every day or at a minimum three times a week. Once a week, take a peek at their gums for redness and inflammation.
  • To brush, use a dog toothbrush, a finger brush, or clean gauze on the tip of your finger. Add products like dental rinses to drinking water or feed your dog kibble designed to clean the teeth.
  • Watch for other signs that may indicate a problem. Vomiting, drooling, bad breath, appetite loss, excessive drinking, or urinating mean a veterinarian visit is in order.
If you’re worried that your pet might have a dental disease or other oral health problems, book an appointment with your vet. Take them to the vet for regular check-ups. Or chat with a licensed vet virtually and get your questions answered!

When your pet has their dental health taken care of, you and your pet can focus on the more important things in life — like finding the perfect Valentine's Day crafts to do with your fur-baby! 

That's all for now. Have a pawsome day!