This is February, and February is Doggy Dental month! A dental for your pet is much like a visit to the dentist for a human. A trained professional will clean your dogs teeth, scale the plaque away, polish them, and often seal them. You may notice that many veterinarians (like seriously across the entire United States) will run discounts and promos during the month of February to entice owners into bringing their pets in for that service.
Why?? Why in the world would a dog need to see the dentist?? I posed this question to one of our Vet Techs at the clinic, and the following is what I took away from the conversation....(I mean I had a pretty good general idea, but didn't want to sound really dumb by using a wrong term, or miss any important points.) So in layman's terms:
Plaque Turns to Tarter. And Tarter turns into Bigger Problems:
Plaque is the soft stuff on teeth that you brush away in your own mouth (hopefully) everyday. When it is left unchecked, it turns into a hard buildup (fancy word: calculus) most people call tarter. The same thing goes for dogs and cats.
Tarter = Bad Times. So, tarter is basically a gateway drug to a plethora of other health problems. The obvious list that comes to mind is gingivitis, periodontal disease, gum recession, etc. You know, "mouth cooties." It all sounds gross and awful, but not so life threatening.... UNTIL someone tells you about how all those mouth cooties directly lead to much more *SCARY* things like Heart Disease and Kidney Disease.
So the basic rundown is that all the tarter sitting at the gum-line holds awful nasty bacteria. Bacteria which is released directly and constantly into the bloodstream. Now your pet's organs have to work extra hard to rid the body of this bacteria. This means that your dog's kidneys don't get a break and are basically overworked, trying to keep up with the demand of filtering the blood. All this overworking takes a toll, and now the life expectancy of your dog has been shortened.
Also, your dogs heart is working extra hard to pump all that blood. Basically the heart is a muscle. And if you think about a muscle in your arm overworking, the result is that it gets bigger. (Like, "Welcome to the Gun Show.") When the heart is overworked, it basically grows like any other muscle in your body. Ok. "Enlarged Heart" sounds kind of bad, right? Well now it gets worse, because the heart got bigger, but the valves inside the heart did not grow with it. AND now they are too small, and they leak. Now you're faced with the problems associated with heart valve disease. Not good. Not good at all.
Ok. It's decided. Dental care *IS* important!!!! But when should you seek that service???
You're best bet is going to be asking your veterinarian what he recommends at your next check up. Most pets I would expect to have a need for a professional dental cleaning about the age of 3 or 4. HOWEVER, a lot of factors play into that need. Things like genetics, diet, chewing activities, etc will all affect you pet's dental hygiene. So, again, please ask your vet what he recommends in your specific case.
RETAINED PUPPY TEETH!!! One last note. *So Important* Dogs get two sets of teeth, like people. The first set falls out, and the adult teeth grow in. However, some dogs will never lose some of their puppy teeth, and then grow their adult teeth in front of or behind the baby teeth. These retained puppy teeth NEED TO COME OUT!!! One of my vets once told me, "If that adult tooth is in there, then that baby tooth should already be gone. It needs to come out sooner rather than later. A great time to take care of it is when they come to get spayed/nutered at the 6 month age mark."
If you do not plan on spaying/neutering your dog, those teeth still need to come out. Leaving them in there makes for a very crowded mouth. Food collects in between the teeth, and the oral health of the dog quickly deteriorates. A great time to take those puppy teeth out is when your take your dog in to be spayed/neutered. They are already under anesthesia, and it doesn't take long to pluck them out. (If you are a groomer reading this, and you see retained puppy teeth in your clients mouths, please please please, strongly encourage that pet parent to see a vet about them.)