For the love of your pet: February is Pet Dental Month

By John Beck
Feb. 7, 2013 at 4:01 p.m.
Updated Feb. 6, 2013 at 8:07 p.m.

I'm seeing signs everywhere that February is Pet Dental Month. How do I know if my pet needs dental work, and why should I have it done during February?

Come to find out, your pet needs consistent dental visits just like we do. Your veterinarian should evaluate your pet's teeth during his or her annual exam. Any gum disease or dental tartar will be noted on their medical records. Halitosis, or bad breath, is usually the first sign of declining dental health.

Oral problems look exactly the same in your pet as they do in humans. Red and inflamed gums and gums that bleed easy are all signs of periodontal disease. If you notice blood on your pet's toys or treats, that might be a good indicator of a problem. Dental tartar is easily spotted. It can look like yellow, green, gray or brown gunk growing on your pet's teeth. It starts accumulating on the part of the tooth closest to the gum line and works its way down over the tooth.

It is hard like the teeth and will not scrub off. When looking at your pet's teeth to evaluate the amount of dental tartar, make sure you look at the upper molars and premolars. They are the teeth that typically accrue tartar first and worst. Many people are under the belief that if tartar is present they can just begin brushing the pet's teeth, and it will eventually brush right off.

This is false; if tartar is visibly present it will need to be scaled off. Discolored teeth may also be a sign of a problem. If teeth appear dark yellow, purple or blue in color, they might not have a healthy root. Pets do a good job of hiding any problems they might be having eating or chewing. They usually adapt and take up a new way to do things before we even notice that there is a problem.

Dental month is American Veterinary Medical Association's way of making pet owners aware that pets need dental care, too. A lot of veterinarians also run specials or have incentives during this month to encourage owners to get on the right track in the care of their pet's teeth. Once your pet's teeth are clean, that is the time to begin preventative care.

Brushing your pet's teeth, dental chews, a prescription dog food for oral health, water additives, etc. can all be used on newly cleaned teeth in order to maintain their bright, healthy whiteness for as long as possible. Visit our office to see what needs to be done to get your pet on the path to good oral health.

Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at



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