(BPT) - Most pet parents enjoy hugs and kisses from their canines. But while your best friend is showering you with love, have you wondered if his teeth are clean? Or about how his dental health affects his overall well-being? Good oral care is as essential for dogs as it is for humans.
By the time they're 3 years old, 80 percent of dogs develop periodontal disease, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. While veterinarians recommend daily brushing for dogs' teeth, studies by the American Animal Hospital Association reveal that nearly two-thirds of pet owners don't provide their pets with recommended dental care.
"Dental health is vital to a dog's total health, and regularly cleaning teeth plays an essential role in preserving a dog's oral health," says Dr. Jan Bellows, a board-certified veterinary dentist and president of the American Veterinary Dental College. "Fortunately, in addition to getting their dog's teeth professionally cleaned, pet parents can do a lot more to care for their dogs' teeth."
Dog-owners can show their love for their four-legged companions by taking some preventive measures, Bellows says, including:
* Learn and watch for the signs of periodontal disease, including abnormal drooling, gums that are red and inflamed (healthy gums should be pink), lesions or cysts on gums and the tongue, loose teeth and "doggie breath." If your pup avoids certain foods he used to gladly eat, or seems uncomfortable when eating, closely examine his gums and teeth.
* Brush your dog's teeth - daily if you can. Daily brushing of a dog's teeth can be a challenge, even for the most diligent pet parent and the most cooperative dog. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to brush. You can also find canine tooth brushing kits and plenty of online advice from organizations like the ASPCA to help make the process as comfortable as possible for both you and your pet. Dental chews can be an easy way to complement annual dental care by a veterinarian. They are specially designed to reach down to the gum line, even way in back. When fed to dogs daily, clinical trials have shown they are as effective as brushing your dog's teeth twice per week, based on the reduction of tartar build-up and bad breath.
* Don't ignore bad breath, especially if you've been diligent about keeping your dog's teeth cleaned. Periodontal disease is not the only health issue associated with doggie breath. Bad breath in a dog that has had good dental care may indicate other conditions, such as digestive problems. Talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.
* Get your dog's teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year. There's no substitute for dental care from a veterinarian, and while your pet doctor is cleaning your dog's teeth, he or she will be best able to spot any potential problems and make treatment recommendations.