K9 Corner, Feb. 13

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tooth/gum health is important for dogs, too 


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.

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I like this special offer because it gives me an excuse to check my dog’s weight, which tells me if I need to give him more exercise or maybe change the amount of food I offer him. 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 twice a week. (My new shelter adoptee is shy about anyone handling his mouth, so I am going to try the new brushless toothpaste or else the product you put in the water bowl that cleans every time the dog drinks.) 

Toy breeds are known to have problems with dental decay and I found out that mine had to have four teeth pulled before he was surrendered to the shelter.

Now why is it so important to take advantage of Dental Month? 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


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 which coats the teeth and eventually hardens into tartar. I learned that 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 in removing the plaque buildup. Your veterinarian has special toothbrushes and paste made for dogs. Good quality dental products can also be purchased through pet catalogs. Since neglecting your dog’s oral health can lead to a build-up of bacteria in the mouth which can migrate to the bloodstream and eventually damage the heart, February is a good time to take advantage of your veterinarian’s special and have your pets’ teeth checked and cleaned.