Good oral hygiene is as important for pets as it is for people. Most people overlook dental care when thinking of pet care, but taking good care of teeth and gums is paramount to a pet’s health and longevity.

Plaque and bacteria can build up in a dog’s mouth over a short period of time. If left untreated, tartar buildup can lead to painful, inflamed gums and open the door to infection and gum disease. Over time, these infections can become chronic or even systemically deadly.

Commercial dental treats may seem like a quick and easy fix, but they are not enough. Proper dental care means keeping the diet crunchy with dry food and teeth-healthy hard treats, and regularly checking the teeth, particularly the rear molars, for dark, plaque-covered areas. Having a vet examine the teeth at regular visits and having a dental cleaning done at least once a year is also encouraged.

If at all possible, a dog’s teeth should be brushed a few times a week. This may seem like a daunting task, but if brushing begins early on, when a dog is a puppy or a newly adopted adult, the pet will get used to the routine. Finger sheaths with nibs on them made for reaching in a pet’s mouth and “brushing” can be purchased at pet supply stores. Some groomers also brush teeth.

If you notice anything unusual, such as a brown color at the base of a dog’s teeth or drooling while eating, or if a pet keeps his head cocked to the side as if having difficulty chewing, then the animal needs an examination by a vet right away.

Bringing dogs to the vet for a dental cleaning at least once a year is vital to keeping them healthy. A dental procedure consists of a thorough cleaning and removing of tartar and plaque, including under the gum line, and examining gums for inflammation or infection. Any bad or loose teeth are removed, and if necessary, the gums are closed with sutures. Follow-up treatment with antibiotics for possible infection is a normal course of action. Even a pet with no teeth can eat dry food as soon as the gums heal and harden, so do not worry if over the years, your dog has to have several teeth removed. Removing the cause of infection is imperative to a healthy, long life.

Predental blood work is recommended to make sure your pet’s vital organs are up for the procedure, as he will have to be under anesthesia for the dental cleaning. Your vet will examine your pet’s teeth at all routine appointments and can recommend when and how often your pet should have a dental procedure.

Events

BUDDY BREAK: The Jefferson Parish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will sponsor a Buddy Break in Lafayette Square in New Orleans from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22. Buddy Breaks pair Central Business District office workers with shelter pets for lunchtime strolls. For information, visit www.facebook.com/buddy breaknola.

PET ADOPTION EVENT: The LA/SPCA will hold a neighborhood pet adoption and bake sale from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at Clearview Mall, 4436 Veterans Memorial Blvd., in Metairie. For information, call (504) 368-5191 or visit la-spca.org.

FERAL CAT TRAP-NEUTER-RETURN: The LA/SPCA will hold a free workshop on dealing with feral cats from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Jan. 24, at 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd. in New Orleans. Participants will learn the importance of trap-neuter-return and find out about basic methods and equipment. For reservations, call (504) 762-3306. For information, visit la-spca.org.

CLINIC OPENING: The Humane Society of Louisiana will be the beneficiary of a grand opening event for My Little Friends Emergency Clinic, operated by Dr. Melissa Ryce, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Jan. 26, in the back room at Le Bon Temps Roule, 4801 Magazine St., in New Orleans. The clinic is at 4734 Magazine St. Admission is $10 and will benefit the Humane Society of Louisiana. For information, call (888) 6-HUMANE.

LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to lostandfound@la-spca.org. In Jefferson Parish, email molsen@jeffparish.net and bbourgeois @jeffparish.net, and in St. Bernard Parish, email cluna@sbpg.net.

Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at animalrescuecolumn@gmail.com, www.animalrescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.