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  • Writer's pictureCaméa Allen

National Pet Dental Health Month & Dogs

Updated: Mar 19

As science and medicine have evolved, so has our understanding of the pivotal role dental health plays in overall health and wellness. According to the AVMA, "Dental health is a critical part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems." Today, we're discussing National Pet Dental Health Month and how to keep your dog smiling.

National Pet Dental Health Month: What is National Pet Dental Health Month

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National Pet Dental Health Month is celebrated in February. The holiday is sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA.) Per the AVMA, "Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes."

National Pet Dental Health Month aims to educate pet parents on the above and motivate them to make small yet meaningful changes to their pet's dental care. By focusing on education, dietary improvements, and regular dental care at home and, annually, by a veterinarian, the veterinary community hopes to not only improve pets' quality of life and free them from undue pain but also to extend their lives by ensuring their wellbeing.

National Pet Dental Health Month: Education

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There are many resources online that teach pet parents how to properly brush their dogs' teeth, how often they need a dental cleaning and more. Some of our favorite resources are as follows:

Veterinarians - both holistic and conventional - often tackle the topic of National Pet Dental Health during February. They agree that dental health is a key factor in pet health and longevity, therefore, they urge pet parents to maintain a daily or almost-daily tooth brushing schedule for their dogs and to have their dog's teeth examined and cleaned annually. We recognize that daily tooth brushing is something few pet parents make time for but, again, the recommendation is based on science and how dental health affects organ function and immunity. In addition, while many pet parents are concerned about annual dental cleanings for fear that the anesthesia may hurt their dog, the risk of leaving a pet's dental health to chance is much greater, especially if they are breeds that tend to suffer higher rates of tooth decay.

National Pet Dental Health Month: Consistency

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As stated, dogs should ideally have their teeth brushed daily. According to Graham Thatcher, clinical assistant professor of dentistry and oral surgery at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, "Dogs and cats will tolerate tooth brushing if it is non-painful and it is accompanied by a reward. I recommend starting with short periods of massaging the gums with the finger and moving up to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Focus should be on the cheek-side of the teeth, as this is where more of the plaque accumulates."

Click here for some great training and brushing tips from Preventive Vet.

National Pet Dental Health Month: Safety

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Per Graham Thatcher at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, "If toothpaste is used, I would recommend a pet-specific toothpaste that does not have added fluoride since pets will likely swallow some of the paste. Fluoride can reach toxic levels if ingested. Additionally, I would recommend only using products that have the  Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. These products can be found at"

Always use dog-specific products, choose toothbrushes based on size, and be gentle to avoid hurting the gums or spreading infection. If you notice an abscess or irritation, stop brushing the area and contact your veterinarian to schedule a consult. Finally, avoid hard chews and bones that can cause tooth fractures.

National Pet Dental Health Month: Diet

While many of us have been told that kibble is good for teeth, many veterinarians disagree. Kibble often leaves a film of tartar and plaque on our dogs' teeth because of the food's consistency.

There are numerous other common myths relating to dogs and how their diet impacts dental health. Unfortunately, most of them are just that, myths that put dogs in danger because of a lack of education or an ongoing desire to blindly follow outdated recommendations.

To improve your dog's teeth, discuss fresh foods with your veterinary team. Even if you keep feeding kibble, you may be able to add health-boosting nutrients to their bowl daily with additions like canned pumpkin, pureed veggies, sardines, and more.

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Pet Care to Keep Your Dog Smiling

At Hearts at Home Pet Sitting, we adore dogs and want to see them live long, healthy lives. If your dog has a daily tooth-brushing routine that we can help with while you're traveling, please let us know. While dogs sometimes don't feel comfortable with someone other than their pet parents touching their mouths, we are willing to learn your routine and attempt to take it over while you're away. Let's chat and work together to keep your dog smiling!

Hearts at Home Pet Sitting provides in-home dog walking and dog sitting services in Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News, and Hampton, Virginia. If you are interested in registering with us, please complete a new client questionnaire here. Existing clients may request services here. Please visit our website or contact us by email at or by phone at 757-745-9868 to learn more.

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