Ask the pet expert: dental care for dogs

September 07, 2012|The Baltimore Sun

Question: My dog's teeth are looking a bit yellow. Should I brush them myself or get them cleaned?

Answer: Good dental health is important to animals just like it is for people. Dogs build up tartar and plaque as they age, which can lead to chronic dental disease. A diet of soft food can contribute to this process. Dental disease can have long-lasting effects such as bad breath, chronic infection, and tooth decay, and can even contribute to more serious health issues, including heart disease. The first step to healthy teeth is cleaning weekly to remove plaque and tartar. Specially shaped toothbrushes and flavored toothpastes make it easier for you to try this at home. Dry, crunchy dental diets or treats are designed to be abrasive and rub off newly formed plaque while animal-friendly water additives can help prevent plaque and encourage fresh breath. Discuss any diet changes or over-the-counter medications with your vet first. Visit your veterinarian regularly for dental checkups. If changes in dental health occur, your vet may recommend prescription medications, diets or dental work.

This week's expert is Alisa Wardrup, exam room manager at the Maryland SPCA, To submit a question for a local animal expert, email

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