Clean your dog’s choppers |

Clean your dog’s choppers

Julie Sutor
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Though it might sound crazy, pets need to keep up on their dental hygiene. Pugs like Won Ton are especially susceptible to gingivitis. Products such as this poultry-flavored toothpaste make brushing your pet's teeth easier. For a story on the necessity of pet tooth care, please see page A8.

SUMMIT COUNTY – If your pet has bad breath, it may be more than just a problem for its social life. In fact, bad breath could be a sign that serious dental problems are just around the corner.Pet health professionals are urging pet owners to recognize February as National Pet Dental Health Month by taking a peek into their animals’ mouths.”In our older patients, 50 percent have dental health problems,” said veterinary technician Greta Sokol of Frisco Animal Hospital. “Certain dog breeds – small breeds and dogs like pugs with short noses – tend to have more dental disease problems by 2 or 3 years old.”Sokol said cats are even more likely than dogs to have “rotten mouths.”

“A lot of times people don’t bring them in yearly or even at all. They come in when the cat is sick or drooling or won’t eat. We’ll see a lot of cats with nastier mouths than dogs,” Sokol said.Dental health problems begin with the buildup of plaque on an animal’s teeth, as bacteria multiply on its teeth and gums. Plaque then mixes with saliva and becomes stubborn tartar and calculus, which, together with bacteria, irritates the gums.If the problem goes unchecked, gums will redden and swell as gingivitis sets in. In more advanced cases, the gums will separate from the teeth, opening the way for bacteria to attack the roots of the teeth and the jaw tissue, causing loose teeth and bleeding gums – full-blown periodontal disease.Infection in the mouth can then spread through the bloodstream to internal organs such as the kidneys, liver and lungs.

Even though periodontal disease is common, it can be prevented. Sokol recommends cleaning a dog or cat’s teeth once a day. If that’s not possible, once a week will do, as long as the animal makes regular, annual visits to the vet.”We have a lady who brushes her dog weekly with an electric brush, and we’ve done hardly any dental work on that dog, and it’s 9 years old,” Sokol said.If you haven’t ever brushed your pet’s teeth, Sokol suggests a gradual approach: Start by massaging the animal’s teeth and gums with your finger to get it accustomed to having your hands in and around its mouth. Then add an animal toothpaste – in fun animal flavors like poultry – to the process until the animal is ready for a toothbrush.Most vets and pet supply stores carry toothpaste and toothbrushes.

In addition to brushing, owners can use tartar-control food and treats to keep teeth and gums in good health.When vets do identify dental problems, animals can undergo a cleaning, which requires general anesthesia.”They scrape off all the tartar like your dentist does, then they go up and under the gum line. They probe on the inside and outside of each tooth to make sure there are no cavities, and then they do the polish,” Sokol said. “It’s very similar to humans, but we’re willing to keep our mouths open for a longer period of time.”Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism