February is National Pet Dental Health Month! It is a special month to remind clients of the importance of oral hygiene for their pets. Oral health starts at home with YOU! Just like you, pets require tooth brushing to help control plaque build-up on their teeth. Periodontal disease can be a very painful and debilitating process; therefore, DAILY brushing of your pet’s teeth is the single most effective way to prevent and control it. Actual brushing of your new puppy’s or kitten’s teeth won’t officially start until all of their adult teeth are erupted, but it is recommended that they are trained early to having their mouths handled and introduced to the tooth brush. When brushing your pet’s teeth please use dog/cat toothpaste and tooth brush. Avoid human products as they can be poisonous or rough on your pet’s mouth.

Also just like you, pets require a visit to their doctor (veterinarians) on a yearly basis to assess their oral hygiene and overall health. Some pets require a “professional cleaning” with their vets every year. A “professional cleaning”, also known as a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT), is performed under general anesthesia. Our middle-age and senior pets require blood work prior to general anesthesia, to make sure there are no underlying issues with their organs. General anesthesia is required for the COHAT because dental x-rays are taken of the teeth; tartar and plaque are removed from the teeth above and below the gum line with scaling; teeth are then polished; and extractions of any unhealthy teeth are performed.

KEY POINTS of dental month: To maintain good oral hygiene for your pet, a combination of professional therapy (COHAT) with your vet AND at home care (tooth brushing) is a must! But don’t fret if your pet won’t allow you to brush their teeth. Although not as effective as daily tooth brushing, there are dental diets, dental chews and water additives that can help. A comprehensive list of products that have been tested and proven effective can be viewed on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website (vohc.org). Show your love to your pet by taking an active role in the care of their teeth!