Your pet gets food, grooming and shots, but do you brush his teeth? Dental care can affect overall health | Entertainment/Life

Delly Bezoss

If the dog has bad breath, it could be time for a dental visit

Every now and then, your pet’s breath may get extra funky, and all the dental treats in the world may not combat the stench. This may be a sign that it’s time for a professional dental cleaning.

Pets need regular dental care just like we do. Dogs and cats can develop periodontal disease by age 3, so establishing good dental hygiene early on is key for long-term overall health.

Dental care is often overlooked, however.

Plaque and bacteria can build up in a dog or cat’s mouth over a short period of time. If left untreated, tartar buildup can mean painful, inflamed gums and lead to infection and gum disease. Over time, these infections can become chronic, or even fatal.

Here are some pointers for proper care:

DENTAL TREATS AREN’T ENOUGH: Proper dental care includes keeping the diet “crunchy” with dry food and teeth-healthy hard treats, and checking the teeth regularly — particularly the rear molars — for dark, plaque-covered areas. Having the vet examine teeth at regular visits and having a dental cleaning done at least once a year is recommended.

REGULAR BRUSHING: If Fido will allow it, try to brush his teeth a few times a week. This may seem like an impossible task, but if brushing is introduced as a routine early on — as a puppy or newly adopted adult — the dog will get used to it.

Finger sheaths with nibs on them made for reaching into the pet’s mouth and brushing can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Some groomers also offer teeth brushing if you’d rather not attempt this on your own.

PROFESSIONAL CLEANINGS ARE CRUCIAL: A dental cleaning by a veterinarian at least once a year is important to a pet’s overall health. This procedure consists of a thorough cleaning and removing of tartar and plaque, including under the gum line, and examining gums for inflammation or infection.

Any bad or loose teeth are removed, and if necessary, the gums are closed with sutures. Follow-up treatment with antibiotics for possible infection is normal.

Even a pet with no teeth can eat dry food as soon as the gums heal and harden, so there is no need to worry if, over the years, several teeth are removed.

BLOOD WORK: Pre-dental blood work, especially for older pets, is recommended to make sure his vital organs are up for the dental cleaning, which will take place under anesthesia. The vet will examine the pet’s teeth at all routine appointments and can recommend when and how often he should have a dental procedure.

If there is brown coloring at the base of the teeth, the pet is drooling while eating or if he keeps his head cocked to the side as if having difficulty chewing, then a prompt visit to the vet is needed.

Events

MAY 14: Dog and Cat Petsmart Adoption Event, hosted by Rolling River Rescue every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Petsmart, 1000 S. Clearview Parkway, in Harahan. Meet adoptable dogs from Rolling River Rescue, Greta’s Ark Animal Rescue and Take Paws Rescue, and adoptable cats through the Spaymart Kitten Foster Program. Donations of gently used items, food and money for foster and medical costs will also be accepted. For more information, email [email protected]

Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator for Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. For topic suggestions, email [email protected] or for more info on ARNO, visit www.animalrescueneworleans.org.

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