Tomorrow marks four years that I got my Weimaraner, Fred, and I remember the first thing everyone mentioned was his puppy breath (other than his cute floppy grey ears!). But did you know that doggy breath actually isn’t normal? I know, I didn’t! Veterinary dentist, Dr. Brook Niemiec and Tom the service dog were kind enough to join me this week to discuss how we can catch potential dental disease in our pets, and how we can help service dogs get dental care for free.
Candace Rose: What signs should we look for to catch potential dental disease (in our pets) early?
Dr. Brook Niemiec: “There are a few things. The first thing that’s going to change in your dog’s mouth as a sign of gum disease is redness of the gums. So really what you should do, and Tom the dog is going to help me out here (please see video above) is flip up the lip and take a look at your dog’s teeth. Redness along the gums is a sign of early gum disease, and you need to start doing something. The other thing is, you need to smell your dog’s breath. If your dog or cat’s breath smells, that’s a sign of bad disease. A lot of people think of doggy breath as being normal…it’s not. Doggy breath is actually a late sign of disease.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips on how we can keep our dog’s mouth clean?
Dr. Brook Niemiec: “Yeah, there’s a lot. It’s just like taking care of our own teeth. We go to the dentist, we need to take him to the vet every year to have his mouth looked at and maybe cleaned, and then we’ve got to take care of him at home as well. And home care ideally is brushing. And if you can brush your teeth every day it’s going to decrease the number of times you have to come see me. But unfortunately a lot of our clients or a lot of our pet parents can’t do that and can’t commit to that and some dogs don’t like it…so there are lots of options for chew based treats. Unfortunately some of those chew based treats work, and some of them don’t. If you want to be sure that the treat that you’re giving your pet to take care of the teeth works, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. If it has it, then it probably works. If it doesn’t, I’d recommend staying away.”
Candace Rose: How can we help service dogs receive oral care for free?
Dr. Brook Niemiec: “Well, you can go to the Greenies Facebook page and ‘like it’. That’s all you have to do. The American Veterinary Dental College, dentists like me are donating our time to do exams on dogs like Tom, but then if there’s something that needs to be done there’s a cost. So Greenies has created a grant to help dogs like this keep their mouths clean and healthy and avoid all the systemics that happen with periodontal disease and be better service dogs to their owners. Just go to the Facebook page and money will be coming Tom’s way to take care of his teeth.”
Candace Rose: That’s wonderful. Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Dr. Brook Niemiec: “Well, basically I think the thing is you have to know that gum disease starts early. It starts really young, so you’ve got to start gum disease care early – under a year of age- most dogs are already. So if you start young, it’s going to be easier to start them and it’s also going to prevent it, so that’s the most important thing. That’s why I’m here with Greenies to get the word out.”
Candace Rose: Well, thank you so much. Where can we go for more information?
Dr. Brook Niemiec: “Well, there’s lots of options: American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC.org) that has really good information. You can go to the Greenies webpage, they have a lot of videos and information on there, or my personal one which is DogBeachDentistry.com. There’s videos and all sorts of information for pet parents out there.”