My dogs are my life. Earlier this week I had the scare of a lifetime when one of my dogs suddenly became ill and had to be rushed to the veterinarian. Thankfully he is young and healthy and bounced back rather quickly, but it really got me thinking about the things I take for granted like having his teeth cleaned on a regular basis. Did you know that 90% of dogs over three years of age suffer from dental disease? According to renowned veterinarian, Dr. Andrea Sanchez, “Dental disease in and of itself is a pretty serious disease that can lead to tooth decay and tooth pain, even losing teeth. Some studies have even correlated pets with dental disease with pets that also have kidney disease, liver disease or even chronic heart disease.” Dr. Sanchez and her dog Henry were kind enough to join me for an interview this week to discuss the importance of pet oral hygiene, the symptoms of dental disease, how we as pet owners can help care for our pet(s) teeth on a daily basis with the flip, check, treat routine and what an annual dental cleaning at your local veterinarian’s office entails.
Candace Rose: What are some of the diseases that dogs can contract with poor oral hygiene?
Dr. Andrea Sanchez: “Right, and that’s a really good question because a study by Banfield Pet Hospital showed that 91% of dogs over the age of three can get diagnosed with dental disease. It’s also the most diagnosis in cats. Dental disease in and of itself is a pretty serious disease that can lead to tooth decay and tooth pain, even losing teeth. Some studies have even correlated pets with dental disease with pets that also have kidney disease, liver disease or even chronic heart disease. We as veterinarians tend to think of a pet’s oral health as a window to their overall wellness and as an example to their overall wellness care, so it’s very important.”
Candace Rose: What are some of the symptoms of these diseases and how does poor oral health affect your pet?
Dr. Andrea Sanchez: “Some of the really common signs are number one – bad breath. We like to think of bad breath as a joke or as something that all dogs have. There are all these jokes about doggie breath, when in fact bad breath is a sign of actually a bacterial infection in the mouth and we do not want that. Other signs of dental disease are yellow discoloration of the teeth, brown discoloration of the teeth, redness and inflammation in the gums or even chipped or missing teeth. Those are all things that we want owners to learn to look for and get used to identifying if they’re there.”
Candace Rose: As a veterinarian what do you recommend pet owners do to help their dog(s) dental health?
Dr. Andrea Sanchez: “I like to teach owners a very simple three step routine that they can practice every day at home, it’s called the flip, check, treat routine and it starts with a daily flip of the lip. Henry (the dog) is going to let me demonstrate on him (please see video for details). I’m going to start with the flip of Henry’s lip – this is flip the lip (the first step). When I flip the lip, I’m doing this so I can check for that yellow discoloration or that brown discoloration or the redness and inflammation in the gums, those are all signs of dental disease as we said and I’m looking for those. This may also be the point where Henry may let me introduce a pet toothbrush and just rub it along the side of the teeth and the gums, so that he can have his teeth brushed everyday.
Step two of course is the check step. Every year we want Henry (the dog) to have his teeth professionally cleaned at his veterinarian. You want to partner with your veterinarian to be checking the teeth and be keeping the tarter in check at least twice a year. The dental cleaning has to happen once a year.
Now, step three is probably the most important part and that’s the part that Henry’s most excited about right now because as a reward of being so patient and so tolerant of all of this flipping the lip and toothbrushing and all this patience, he needs to be reinforced with a treat. As a veterinarian we don’t want to just use any treat, we use these reinforced textured dental treats – Greenies dental chews. The reason that we want to give him this treat as opposed to other treats is because this has actually been proven to reduce plaque and tartar to the same degree as toothbrushing. Not only is it saying ‘Good job Henry’ for letting us flip the lip and do a toothbrushing, but here we’re going to enhance the effects of toothbrushing, bolster the toothbrushing, extend the amount of toothbrushing we can get done in between visits to the vet. Obviously it tastes great and he’s going to be very cooperative with our at-home daily oral care regimen.”
Candace Rose: I’m actually taking my dog in for her first dental cleaning soon. What does that entail? Is she going to have to be put out for this?
Dr. Andrea Sanchez: “Dogs need to undergo anesthesia if you want to get a dental cleaning done thoroughly because your veterinarian is going to do the same thing as your dentist does. They’re going to do a full scaling, a probing and a charting of all the teeth in the mouth, and then they’re going to polish and do a fluoride treatment.
In order to make this a non-stressful experience for the dog, where the dog’s mouth will be completely open and accessible to the veterinarian, that dog needs to be sleeping and not remember a thing about it. Anesthesia is perfectly safe in pets with the right pre-anesthetic protocol. Talk to your veterinarian about their anesthetic protocols, make sure that it’s safe, make sure that they take every precaution and that they will be very careful when your pet does undergo anesthesia for their full dental cleaning.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Dr. Andrea Sanchez: “Just go to FlipCheckTreat.com, start making this a daily routine with your pets. You can actually use Greenies Dental Chews which are the number one veterinarian dental treat. You can use these once a day as a rule of thumb (always run it past your veterinarian) and check to make sure whatever your dental home care routine is, your veterinarian and you agree that’s what’s best for your vet.”