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By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

“I don’t need to take care of my dog’s teeth!” proclaim some people. “They’re wolf descendants. Wolves never went to dentists.” Though this may be true, this overlooks about 20,000 years of evolution and the fact that a lot of wild animals suffer from terrible dental conditions.

Fortunately for your pet, he or she has you to keep their teeth healthy and save them from a lot of pain and discomfort. So what do you need to do?

First, be aware of any risk factors for your pet’s oral health. Although most dogs suffer from periodontal disease at some point in their lives, certain breeds tend to be more severely affected: Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Dachshunds, and Pomeranians, to name just a few. These dogs will need more advanced care earlier in their lives than other breeds.

Next, set the stage for good oral health. Tooth brushing may seem strange at first, but it’s truly the best thing you can do at home to help your pet’s oral health. Pet friendly toothbrushes and toothpastes in flavors like chicken and bacon make the experience more palatable for pets. In addition, dental diets and dental chews can help reduce the accumulation of tartar and plaque in pets.

Third, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for oral care. Although anesthesia may worry people, it’s necessary to get a deep cleaning under the gums in most pets. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings, though they are popular right now, provide cosmetic change but little genuine medical benefit. In addition, the anesthetized oral exam gives the veterinarian a chance to do a thorough exam of the oral cavity, and it is during just such an exam that many early stage oral cancers are discovered.

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