February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Caring for your dog’s teeth is an important part of grooming and keeping her looking her best. It is also an integral part of keeping her healthy on a larger scale.

Regular dental care and brushing is essential to prevent bad breath and gum disease. The American Kennel Club shares clues that may signal poor dental health for your pup:

— Bad breath. Contrary to popular belief, bad breath is not natural for dogs. Plaque and tartar builds up on dogs’ teeth similarly to how it would in our own mouths. If their teeth aren’t brushed regularly, this bacteria gets caught below the gum line and results in bad breath. This foul odor can be a sign of periodontal disease in your dog.

• Signs of gum disease. If you notice bleeding or inflammation of your dog’s gums, or she shows signs of pain during brushings, bring her to the vet, as these may be signs of gum disease. The most common indication of dental pain is lethargy. It’s important to regularly examine your dog’s teeth, because untreated oral infections could spread to other areas of her body. If you see that she has accumulated brown tartar, she needs to have a professional dental cleaning.

• Loose or broken teeth. Your dog’s teeth should not move or shift in the gums. If they do, it could be a warning sign of a number of things, such as a fractured root or even a disease causing poor bone support. Sometimes the things our dogs get their mouths on can even break their teeth. When a tooth breaks and exposes a nerve, it can be very painful for your dog and requires attention as soon as possible. If you notice your dog has loose or broken teeth, a trip to the veterinary dentist is necessary to make sure your dog’s overall health and happiness doesn’t suffer.

To prevent dental issues in your pup, consider the following steps:

• Brush your dog’s teeth. Using flavored enzymatic toothpaste (specially formulated for dogs) and a doggie or child’s toothbrush, brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis. Brush her teeth like you would your own and focus extra attention on the gum line.

• Familiarize your dog. Start with short brushing sessions, even letting your dog just lick the brush or just touch the brush to one tooth, so she gets used to it and begins to accept the process. Work up to more thorough brushing sessions. Give different flavors of toothpaste a try and see which one she likes best. Make sure to reward her with praise and a dental treat to keep her happy and comfortable.

For more tips on dog ownership, visit the AKC at www.akc.org


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