February is Veterinary Dental Month. Have you taken advantage of the special offers most veterinarians advertise? This is to encourage pet owners to have their pet’s teeth cleaned and have an examination of the mouth, tongue and gums at the same time.
I like this special offer because it gives me an excuse to check my dog’s weight (she has gained this winter) which tells me to give her more exercise or else cut a bit on her food intake — maybe both. I also like to take advantage of the reduced price because my veterinarian has a “package price” for routine dental care and part of the package is a blood test that also tells me if the dog is starting to have a problem.
Dental disease is a common problem, especially if you don’t take the time to brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. I was fortunate that, although my dog’s teeth needed cleaning, she did not lose any teeth this time — something that is a problem with toy breeds. Their teeth seem to decay at the roots and have to be pulled.
Why is it so important to take advantage of Dental Month deals? For one thing, periodontal disease affects the area around the teeth including the gums. I have recently heard horror stories of pets having eating problems which the owners tried to remedy with over the counter medications until the animals lost considerable weight and acted lethargic.
When one of these pets finally was seen by a veterinarian, it was discovered that the animal had oral cancer and had to be put to sleep. Could an earlier diagnosis prevent this outcome? I am not sure because I didn’t hear what kind of cancer it was. However, it does emphasize the importance of the oral examination during the routine cleaning process.
This cleaning also makes the animal’s breath more pleasant since the tartar is scraped off and the plaque is polished away leaving sparkling teeth and, we hope, healthy gums. If the doctor feels there is any gum disease or infection, you will be given medication to cure the problem.
What is plaque? It is an accumulation of bacteria and minerals that coats the teeth and eventually hardens into tartar. I learned small dogs that do not have regular oral care, whether at home or at the clinic, can have the plaque destroy the tissue surrounding the teeth and can even destroy the bone supporting the teeth.
Daily brushing helps remove the plaque buildup. Your veterinarian has special toothbrushes and paste made for dogs. I found my toy breed has such a small mouth that I had to buy a special tiny brush made for humans to carry in their purse or pocket. I was so happy to find this brush (a bit smaller than a pencil eraser) and it is nice and soft. I have no reason not to start training my senior pet to submit to a daily brushing. Are you ready to try, too?