Pet Dental Tips

When is it time to get your pets teeth cleaned?Say Aaaaaaa
Your pet’s teeth are just like yours, they need to be looked at by a professional at least once a year. Its best to start having them checked when your pet is young to prevent potentially serious conditions from occurring. Most veterinarians check your pet’s teeth at every visit, regardless of whether its your healthy annual checkup and shots or if they are coming in for something more serious. All pets’ teeth are different and some pets require a check up or cleaning more often than once a year as they age.

What signs indicate your pet is in need of a dental?

A dental, or dental prophylactic, is a cleaning done by the veterinary staff at your vet’s office. The veterinarian either performs or directly supervises the “cleaning” and examination of your pet’s teeth. Both dogs and cats need dentals as they age to prevent gum loss, tooth decay and loss, and possible serious health problems like generalized infection and heart disease which can both be caused or contributed to by severe dental disease. The veterinary staff will use similar instruments to those that your dentist uses on your teeth. The big difference is where your dentist can ask you to say “ah” and open your mouth wide, its hard to instruct Fifi and Fido to do the same. So general anesthesia is used to have your pet sleep safely while the procedure is being performed. Hand instruments or a machine called an ultrasonic are used to removed the plaque and buildup on the tooth surface. Depending on the amount of debris, this can take quite a while! Some teeth that are in bad repair or even “dead” may have to be removed by the veterinarian. The teeth are then polished with a flavored paste to make them pretty and white again.

How do you know if your pet needs a dental?
If you haven’t been to the vet in a while and your pet’s mouth smells horrible, that may be the first sign that its time for a checkup. If you open your pet’s mouth and see discoloration around the top of the tooth near the gumline, its time to see the vet. Yellow discoloration is a sign of tartar, brown or black discoloration is plaque and bacteria. If you can see where the gumline used to be and instead you see more tooth? That’s a serious issue and means teeth may need to be removed.

Do dental sticks and toys really work?
There are some products out there designed to help the dog scrape the plaque and tartar from their teeth. There are also toothbrushes and toothpaste made for pets! If you give your dog a dental chew, make sure you only let them have it when you are around to monitor their behavior. Some dogs have been known to choke on pieces of rawhide, stick, or bone as they break off pieces. If you want to try to brush your pets teeth, start by teaching them that the process is fun and can be tasty in much the way you taught them to allow you to trim their toenails. Don’t go at it all at once on the first time and don’t make it stressful. Brushing the teeth, when done properly, should be done everyday, like you do your own. Also, feed your pet the largest pet food kibble available. This means not using the “small bite” formulations. When a dog or cat has to bite through a kibble, the rough edge of the kibble can help clean the tooth.  None of this should be instead of taking your pet to the veterinarian for a true cleaning, just as you still have to have your teeth professionally cleaned once or twice a year even though you brush daily.

A key to a healthy pet is good dental care! February is dental month at most veterinarians so make your appointment for February and take advantage of their lower costs to do whats right for your pet!


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About SAHS

The San Antonio Humane Society (SAHS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, no-kill organization that has served Bexar County and its surrounding areas since 1952. The SAHS shelters, medically treats, and rehabilitates thousands of dogs and cats every year.

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