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Don’t Fear the Dentist! Doggy Dental Care for Dummies

One of the most endearing dog characteristics is a big, wide smile. But if your dog has bad dental hygiene, his mouth may be the last feature anyone wants to see (or smell).

Not only can bad oral care be disgusting and unsightly, but it can also escalate into serious health issues if not addressed properly. According to a publication by the Banfield Pet Hospital in the Periodontal Literature Review, estimates suggest that 85 percent of canines suffer from periodontal disease by age four. Not to worry though; with simple regular maintenance, your pooch can ditch the doggy breath and keep a dazzling smile throughout the years.

Periodontal Disease: Signs and Symptoms
The first sign of periodontal disease is the infamous “doggy breath” we have all gotten a whiff of at one time or another. If bad breath in your dog is a recurring issue, it may be time to consult a veterinarian. Disease typically starts with a bacterial invasion which takes the form of plaque on the surface of the teeth. Plaque in its early stages can easily be scraped off when your dog eats hard food or chews on a toy. If the plaque remains, however, it may accumulate into calcified tartar and eventually lead to gingivitis, bleeding and swelling of the gums. The bacteria can also infiltrate the dog’s bloodstream and cause disease to the lungs, kidneys and heart. Professional intervention will be needed at this point to prevent the plaque from causing a full-blown infection which can cause tooth deterioration, loss and severe discomfort for your dog. Now that doesn’t sound like so much fun for Fido, does it?

Veterinary Care
Aside from regular dental checkups, professional teeth cleaning that requires anesthesia should be done about once a year to remove plaque buildup. It’s a good idea to do your research before choosing a veterinary dentist, as well as bring your dog with you on your consultations to get both of you more comfortable for future visits. Your vet may perform a dental X-ray on your dog to check overall dental health and for abnormalities that may not be present in a general checkup. Before cleaning, the vet will administer a pre-anesthetic exam to make sure your dog is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Once the safety of the procedure is confirmed and anesthesia is underway, your dog’s vital signs such as respiration, body temperature and heart rate while be monitored throughout the process. Then, much like the cleaning that takes place at your own dental visits, the vet will scale and polish the teeth of your dog, scraping off plaque and smoothing out rough areas. The vet may apply fluoride as a protective barrier to strengthen the teeth until the next visit.

Home Care
In addition to regular dental checkups, daily maintenance of your dog’s teeth at home is highly recommended. That’s right, this means brushing your dog’s teeth ideally once a day but starting with at least once a week if your dog is especially fussy with a prodding toothbrush in his mouth. You may use either a regular human toothbrush or a doggy toothbrush from a pet store, which is more angled to fit the mouth of your dog. Canine toothpaste must be used over the human kind, however, since the latter has harmful abrasives and is not safe for your dog to swallow. Teeth wipes can also be used for quick dental touch-ups.

Once you’ve got all your supplies together, it’s time to start brushing! Be patient—your dog might not be very receptive of brushing at first, and it may take some time for him to get used to the process. Start with getting your dog comfortable with you handling his muzzle by topping your finger with a soft treat like peanut butter and gently introducing it into his mouth, moving along the teeth as well. Once your dog appears comfortable with you touching his mouth and teeth, place a small amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush, lift his lips up, and brush in circular motions along the gum line. The more you practice with your dog, the farther back you will be able to go in his mouth for a more thorough clean. Always end the session with a treat and praise to provide positive reinforcement for your pup.

It is also useful to give your dog a flexible chew toy or rawhide bone that he will enjoy chewing while keeping his mouth healthy and clean. Other products on the market can easily help rid your pooch of “doggy breath” caused by lack of dental upkeep.

Dental hygiene can be a daunting subject for both people and their dogs, but doing a little maintenance every day will ensure that your dog stays healthy and sound.

More Than a Hair Cut, Grooming is Health Necessity

Many dog owners consider grooming their pooch a luxury or vanity service, rather than a health need. Yet, this notion couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s crucial to change this perception as grooming is a necessary in taking care of not just your dog’s look, but also his health and well-being. And so, we’re here to educate dog owners on the following health benefits of regular grooming.

Ear Mites and Ear Infections
Most groomers will closely check your dog’s ears, which are breeding grounds for bacteria, and be able to spot infections or mites, which may otherwise be invisible to the untrained eye of the average dog owner. If infection or mites are found, the groomer may recommend over the counter treatment, or depending on the severity, recommend you see a veterinarian for a prescription.

Fleas, Ticks or Parasites
A professional groomer will check your dog’s body for ticks, fleas and other parasites, which should then be removed meticulously by the groomer. Fleas are typically found while your dog is being bathed in the tub and with a thorough shampoo, most if not all fleas will die in the water.  If the groomer finds ticks however, they are typically removed during the high velocity drying process by splitting the dog’s hair line by line, removing the dead coat and drying the skin row by row. If your groomer finds worms, you’ll be referred to a vet for a checkup. You may want to ask your groomer if they “fluff dry” or “brush dry” to confirm they use either of these thorough techniques.

Abnormal Skin Growths
It’s a good idea to remind your groomer, who is familiar with dog anatomy, to check for skin abnormalities during the grooming process. Because they’re spending a great deal of time on your pup’s hair, skin and body, this is an appropriate time for them to notice any bumps, lumps or abscesses. If these symptoms are identified in the early stages, you can treat your dog before the condition worsens or a serious illness develops.

Nails, Teeth and Sanitary Area
A typical professional dog grooming packaging doesn’t just include a bath and a trim, but also maintenance of other important hygiene areas such as paws, mouth and buttocks. Nail trimming prevents blood vessels from growing too long inside the nail, which could cause problems as your dog gets older. Not to mention, the sound of long nails scratching the floor or furniture can be reason enough alone to get them trimmed regularly! It’s also important for your groomer to trim hair that grows in between the toes, as sometimes burs and tar can get stuck, penetrate the skin and become infected. Regular teeth brushing can also be performed by your groomer, which can help prevent dental disease and bad breath. Lastly, trimming around the sanitary area removes excess hair that’s more prone to hosting bacteria and carrying feces. If your dog is in need of external anal gland expression due to inflammation, allergies, infection, or abnormal stool, your groomer may be able to handle as well. If it’s a larger problem that requires internal expression, you should be referred over to your vet.

Some breeds with longer hair are prone to matting (also known as knotted balls of hair), especially in hard to detangle areas like the face, neck and ears. Besides looking a bit rough around the edges, mats can be painful because they pull the skin tight and can lead to skin ulcers, abrasions and other problems. Sometimes a mat can be cut out with scissors, but other times they require a complete shave down. The good news is that with a regular grooming schedule, mats can easily be prevented.