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Your pet receives food, care and injections, but do you brush your teeth? Dental care can affect overall health | Entertainment/Life

If the dog has bad breath, it might be time for a visit to the dentist.

From time to time, your pet’s breath can get funkier, and all the dental treats in the world might not fight the stench. It may be a sign that it’s time for a professional dental cleaning.

Pets need regular dental care, just like us. Dogs and cats can develop periodontal disease before they are 3 years old. It is therefore essential to establish good dental hygiene early on for long-term overall health.

However, dental care is often overlooked.

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

Here are some tips for proper maintenance:

DENTAL TREATS ARE NOT ENOUGH: Proper dental care includes maintaining a “crunchy” diet of dry foods and tooth-healthy hard treats, and regularly checking the teeth – especially the back molars – for dark, plaque-covered areas. It is recommended to have the teeth examined by the veterinarian during regular visits and to have a dental cleaning at least once a year.

REGULAR BRUSHING: If Fido allows it, try brushing your teeth several times a week. It may seem like an impossible task, but if brushing is introduced as a routine from the start – as a puppy or newly adopted adult – the dog will get used to it.

Finger sheaths with tips designed for reaching the pet’s mouth and brushing can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Some groomers also offer tooth brushing if you’d rather not try it yourself.

PROFESSIONAL CLEANING IS CRUCIAL: A dental cleaning by a veterinarian at least once a year is important for a pet’s overall health. This procedure involves deep cleaning and removal of tartar and plaque, including below the gum line, and examining the 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 toothless animal 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 TEST: Pre-dental blood work, especially for older pets, is recommended to ensure vital organs are ready for dental cleaning, which will take place under anesthesia. The veterinarian will examine the pet’s teeth at all routine appointments and can recommend when and how often they should have dental work.

If there is a brown discoloration at the base of the teeth, if the animal drools while eating, or if it keeps its head tilted to the side as if having difficulty chewing, a prompt visit to the veterinarian is necessary.


MAY 14: Petsmart Adoption Event for Dogs and Cats, hosted by Rolling River Rescue every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Petsmart, 1000 S. Clearview Parkway, 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 care and medical expenses will also be accepted. For more information, email [email protected]

Traci D. Howerton is the volunteer coordinator of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a volunteer-based nonprofit shelter. For topic suggestions, email [email protected] or for more information on ARNO, visit

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