February is Pet Dental Health Month. Now is a good time to consider beginning a regular routine with your pet to prevent costly dental problems down the road.
Why be Concerned With the Health of Your Pet's Teeth?
Dog dental care if far more important than most people realize. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs show signs of gum disease by age three.
Dogs can get cavities, plaque and tartar buildup just like we do. Small dogs are more susceptible than larger breeds simply because the larger dogs tend to spend more time chewing on bones and treats.
Regular preventive dental care can help keep your dog's teeth healthy and pearly white.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Disease
One of the first signs of dental disease in dogs is bad breath. Studies show that 98% of dogs with bad breath are suffering from periodontal disease, a result of plaque build up. If left untreated, this can lead to a bacteria infection, which can enter the bloodstream and spread to your dog's kidney, liver, heart and even their brain.
Other signs include excessive drooling, or reluctance to chew.
What You Can Do
As a rule of thumb, your dog's teeth should be cleaned at least twice a week. Brushing with a special toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets is the most common way to accomplish this. There are other options though, if your pet just will not sit still and open wide.
One of the easiest things you can do is feed your dog healthy treats that he can chew on. Many dogs enjoy munching on baby carrots. A diet of dry kibble can help as it scrapes the teeth to help keep them clean. Dry dog treats such as biscuits can have the same effect. You can also purchase special dental chew treats at most pet stores.
Beginning a dental care regimen early in your puppy's life will make it easier for them to acclimate to the routine. Most puppies have all of their adult teeth by the age of six months.
Never use human toothpaste or oral rinses on your pet. These products are not designed to be swallowed and unless you can train your dog to spit like humans do (highly unlikely), it could make them sick. You can purchase products made specifically for dogs at your local pet store. Pet toothpaste even comes in yummy flavors that your dog will love, to help make the experience more pleasurable.
You can train your dog to accept the toothbrushing experience by starting gradually and slowly. Begin by just rubbing your finger around his mouth, and inside along the gums if he will let you. Put a little tasty toothpaste on your finger so he can experience the taste. You can wrap a piece of gauze on your finger with a dab of toothpaste.
Work your way up to using a soft rubber finger brush that you can purchase at your local pet store. Once he accepts this readily you can move on to a pet toothbrush.
Keep the sessions short and positive, always ending with a tasty treat or other reward such as a game of fetch. That way your dog will associate teeth cleaning with something fun or pleasurable.
When to See The Veterinarian
Your veterinarian should do a routine dental examination annually for adult dogs. In some cases professional teeth cleaning may be recommended and can be done by your veterinarian. This usually requires your pet to be put under a general anesthesia. During the procedure, your dog’s teeth and gums will be examined closely for problems. The teeth will then be scaled and polished. If dental problems are noted, tooth extractions could become necessary.
Consult your veterinarian if you find broken, missing or crooked teeth, red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums, bumps or growths in the mouth, or if your dog is in obvious pain or discomfort.
Education is the first step in pet poison prevention.
Pet owners should take the time to educate themselves on the various, sometimes unexpected, pet poisons in their environments. The Pet Poison Helpline provides an extensive list of poisonous items for pet owners to be aware of, but here are a few of the most common items seen by veterinarians:
Many people believe certain dog breed, such as huskies and malamutes, are capable of living outside all of the time because of their thick coats. However, no dog breed should be consistently left unprotected outside. According to the City of Cincinnati, when the temperature is below 20 degrees Fahrenheit or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, a pet owner should not leave their dog outside for longer than sixty minutes without adequate shelter. For outside dogs, owners should provide a warm, dry, draft free shelter with fresh, unfrozen water. Heated water bowls are a great option to ensure consistent access to unfrozen water. Owners should also feed their outdoor dogs more during the winter because their bodies use more energy trying to keep warm. In 2016, the City of Cincinnati passed an ordinance with further restrictions and shelter guidelines for dog tethering and weather conditions, which can be found by clicking here
A common winter hazard that vets encounter consistently with cats is engine belt injuries. Cats will climb into cars to keep warm, and without knowing they’re there, people will start their cars and harm the cats. Before starting your car in the winter, it’s advised to give the car hood a few raps to make sure there are no cats cozied up inside.
Pets start an estimated 1,000 fires per year. While this isn’t a huge number, it’s easily preventable. Pet owners should identify the risks in their home and make sure they’re contained from pets. Risks to consider include, open flames such as candles, space heaters, stovetops, fireplaces, and frayed wires chewed by puppies.
Even if all fire hazards are contained from pets, there’s still always a chance of a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) , there’s a home fire reported every 86 seconds in the United States. So while the hope is that you and your pets never have to face a fire, it’s important to have a plan.
In case of a fire, pet owners should hang window clings that let firefighters know there’s a pet in the home. The ASPCA offers a free Pet Fire Safety Pack that includes a window decal. When leaving home, pet owners should know where their pets are and keep them close to exits if possible. Pet owners should also consider investing in monitored smoke detectors that alert homeowners of a fire when they’re not home and automatically dispatch firefighters.
Getting your dog microchipped is an easy and relatively inexpensive procedure that drastically increases the odds that your pet will find its way home if it’s ever lost. A microchip is a tiny chip that’s about the size of a grain of rice and contains a unique identification number. It’s injected into a pet’s skin between the shoulder blades on their back. When scanned with an electric scanner, the chip will show the unique identification number and manufacturer of the microchip. This unique identification number will be linked to the pet owner’s contact information in the microchip manufacturer’s database.
If a stranger ever finds your dog, a shelter or veterinarian can scan your pet for a microchip. Once they have the identification number and manufacturer from the chip reading, they will call the manufacturer in search of the pet owner’s contact information. Therefore, if a dog owner moves or changes their contact information, it’s extremely important for them to update the contact information associated with their pet’s microchip identification number.