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Your Dog and the Dentist: Learn the Drill

While "late is better than never," sooner is better than later, at least when it comes to your dog's dental health. Dental disease gets worse over time, and the longer you wait, the more damage that will have to be taken care of and the more expensive your vet bill will be.

Your dog probably won't need much work done on his teeth when he's still young... so your vet won't do much more than open his mouth and take a look at what's going on in there. But as he ages, dental disease can set in, especially if you don't brush his teeth (which you should be). So check him periodically for signs of mouth/tooth decay, bleeding gums, or abscesses. If you see or smell anything unusual, he'll need to go in for a cleaning and polishing, or "prophy," which is vetspeak for prophylaxis.

Unfortunately, "spit," "rinse", and "open wide" are not part of your dog's limited vocabulary, and that spit sucker thing is likely to terrify him... so, for everyone's convenience and peace of mind, your veterinarian will anesthetize your dog before doing any complicated procedures on his teeth.

Anesthesia is not without risks; therefore, your vet will require several precautionary tests before putting your dog under. This may seem rather tedious to you; but if you want to prolong your dog's life, you really should be taking care of his teeth. This may mean a few dental cleanings in his older years which DO require anesthesia to be conducted properly and safely. The good news is, the more you practice regular brushing and plaque control in the form of crunchy bones and such, the less cleanings and dental work your dog will require... so hopefully you can keep those vet bills down.

Expect the vet to perform the following precautionary tests to determine if anesthesia is a safe option.

- Basic blood tests including red and white blood cell count
- Kidney and liver evaulation
- Possibly a heart function test, if your vet detects a heart murmur
- Possibly a urinalysis if there is reason to suspect kidney disease

The above testing will require one or possibly more trips to the vet, as well as several days of waiting time before the lab results come back. Just like your family doctor, your dog's vet wants to give you as thorough an evaluation as possible so he can determine the correct diagnosis and proper and complete treatment for your dog's teeth and for his health in general.

Assuming your dog passes his health exam and lab testing with flying colors, your next scheduled appointment will be for the cleaning and dental work itself. Time to tackle that tartar!

The dental procedure may involve some if not all of the following:

- Anesthetic administration
- X-rays
- General examination
- Tooth extractions
- Tartar removal
- Polishing

The procedure may be as brief as 20 minutes, if your dog has mostly healthy teeth, but may take an hour or longer for more extensive work in the case of diseased teeth and other problems. If your vet detects slow recovery from the anesthesia, he may require an overnight stay. Your vet should keep you informed every step of the way during your dog's dental procedure, and alert you to any unexpected outcomes.

You generally won't be expected to provide any special care after you take your pet home from his dental appointment, unless of course your dog has had major surgery and/or tooth extractions. In such a case, he may require the feeding of softer food or administering of antibiotics for a little while. Your dog's vet will inform you of what if any additional care if any is needed, and whether or not your pup will require a follow-up exam.

Start taking care of your dog's teeth now, and you won't have to worry about costly extensive dental treatments down the road. A brief recap of how you can help:

- Get into the habit of regularly brushing your dog's teeth while they're still in good condition.

- Feed him hard, crunchy food and special snacks that will aid in plaque removal.

- Examine his mouth regularly for signs of tooth problems or dental disease- redness, swelling, abnormal gumline, difficulty chewing.

- Take your pup in for regular dental checkups and cleanings; typically, once a year if he's young, and bi-annually if he's a senior dog.

- Make sure that any dental problems are treated promptly by a certified veterinarian.

In short: take care of your dog's teeth, and ensure him a long and healthy life!

Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.

Dina Giolitto is a copywriting consultant and ghostwriter with 10 years of experience writing corporate print materials and web content. Trust her with your next e-book, article series or web project, and make a lasting impression on your audience of information-hungry prospects. Visit for more information.

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