When we consider pet care, the teeth are often overlooked. However, good oral hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is for people. The fact is, taking care of our pet’s teeth is vital to their health and to living a maximum lifespan.

If the family dog has funky breath, they may need a dental check up. 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.

Dental treats seem like a quick and easy option, but tossing the dog a dental bone is not enough. Proper dental care includes keeping the diet “crunchy” with dry food and teeth-healthy hard treats, and checking the teeth regularly — particularly the rear molars — for dark, plaque-covered areas. Having the vet examine teeth at regular visits and having a dental cleaning done at least once a year is recommended.

If possible, try to brush the teeth a few times a week. This may seem like an impossible task, but if brushing is started early on — as a puppy or newly adopted adult — the dog will get used to the routine. Finger sheaths with nibs on them made for reaching in the pet’s mouth and brushing can be purchased at most pet supply stores. Some groomers also offer teeth brushing.

If anything unusual is detected, such as a brown color at the base of Fido’s teeth, drooling while eating, or if they keep their head cocked to the side as if having difficulty chewing, they should be examined by a vet right away.

A dental cleaning 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 there is no need to worry if, over the years, the family dog has to have several teeth removed. Removing any cause of infection is imperative to a healthy, long life.

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

Events

JANUARY: All month, the Three Palms Bar & Grill (3813 Tulane Ave., New Orleans) will donate proceeds from its Cathead Vodka special and Gnarly Barley's Catahoula Common Lager to the rescue animals at the Louisiana SPCA.

SATURDAY: Animal Rescue New Orleans will benefit from Caluda’s King Cake Festival at Cottage Catering & Bakery, 1536 River Oaks Road West, Harahan (near the corner of Citrus Boulevard and Dickory Avenue). Attendees can kick off Carnival season with food, face painting and tattoos, live entertainment, a firetruck, and contests and prizes for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds from every cake sold will go to ARNO. Adoptable dogs will be on site, too. For more info, email adopt@animalrescueneworleans.org

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