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February 27, 2008

Beyond Bad Morning Breath

By: Jamie Klinger-Krebs

Every year around this time, the topic of canine oral health becomes a priority. To help you begin, or restart a proper dental routine for your companions, Jamie investigated some new ideas and shares with us the importance of routine care and ways to make this a pleasurable experience for you and your four-legged family members.

Do you wake up to the familiar, not-so-nice scent of dog breath in your face each morning? Though youíre happy to see your dogís chipper face on the side of the bed, waking up to his foul breath may not be the best way to start your day.

Though most of us contribute bad breath to just ďbeing a dog,Ē the reality is there may be some trouble brewing inside your best friendís mouth. Staying on top of dental care may not only be more pleasant for you each morning (or any other time your dog sits next to you with an open mouth), but it will also help him live a much healthier and happier life.

Letís face it, most of us donít routinely care for, or even think about our petís dental care needs. With good intentions we may buy the tooth brushes and beef or chicken flavored toothpastes, but usually after we use them once or twice they sit in a closet or drawer never to be seen again. Dental care in our pets is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of their overall health care. According to a recent study conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), approximately two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the dental care recommended by veterinarians. In addition, the American Veterinary Dental Society indicates that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three.

According to petdental.com, oral disease is one of the most frequently diagnosed health problems for pets, and itís one that can be prevented with regular maintenance. Oral disease begins when bacteria, combined with saliva and food debris becomes caught between the tooth and gum, which can cause plaque formulations that accumulate on the teeth. If left untreated, this bacteria grows in the plaque which eventually turns to tartar. Just as tartar is bad for humans, itís bad for your dog, too. If left untreated, oral disease can lead to serious illness such as heart and kidney disease.

Along with bad breath, some common indications of oral disease include a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression. If you notice this behavior, you should have your dog examined by a veterinarian right away.

Though dogs will routinely require professional medical care for their teeth, the best way to prevent oral disease problems is to begin a dental health routine when the dog is young.

A complete home dental care program, as suggested by petdental.com, includes brushing as well as incorporating healthy food into your dogís diet. Avoid feeding your dog table scraps as this will increase the build up of plaque and tartar. Other veterinary professionals also recommend using dry food as opposed to wet foods for keeping you dogís teeth healthy.

Following are some helpful tips from petdental.com to introduce (and maintain) a brushing routine for your dog:

Step one: Introduce the brushing program gradually and avoid restraining your pet. Keep the brushing sessions short and positive with lots of praise and reassurance throughout the process.

Step two: Dip your finger into beef bouillon water and rub the soaked finger gently over the dogís mouth and teeth, again, make this session short and positive.

Step three: Gradually introduce gauze over the finger and gently scrub the teeth in a circular motion.

Step four: Introduce a soft toothbrush designed for pets, or a sensitive or ultra-soft brush designed for people. Donít use toothpaste designed for people, as it will upset your dogís stomach.

Once youíve incorporated the proper food and brushing routine into your dogís life, the more likely he is to have better breath and overall health. Even if youíre unable to brush his teeth daily, staying in a good routine will also help reduce costly trips to the vetís office.

Jamie Klinger-Krebs is a freelance writer who writes a regular monthly column ďPet TalkĒ on http://www.gmtoday.com.

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