By Elsebeth DeBiase, ICMG
Maine Professional Groomers Association, Founder
Coastal Creations Pet Salon, Owner
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental disease is one of the most common health conditions affecting pets today. According to Veterinarians.org, 80% of dogs over age 3 suffer from periodontal disease. As professional groomers, we often receive inquiries regarding improving pets' breath; after all, we are here primarily to solve problems of aesthetics and unpleasant aromas. However, genuinely effective canine dental care occurs at home and at your veterinary office. Groomers want to support you in providing the best care for your pet. Therefore, it is our responsibility to promote dental care and raise awareness of the risks associated with dental disease, its effects on the grooming experience, and what groomers can do to help.
Dental care is critical to your dog's overall health and well-being. Bad breath is often the first indication of a dental problem noticed by owners and could indicate periodontal disease. Canine periodontal disease, classified into four stages, is a medical condition initiated by plaque formation and tartar above and below the gum line. Tartar irritates the gum line, causing inflammation and allowing for the proliferation of bacteria. According to Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, dogs will experience severe pain, oral bone loss, tooth loss, and systemic infection if dental disease is allowed to progress to stage four. Systemic infection from oral decay can damage internal organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. However, proactive home care that includes daily brushing will go a long way toward preventing dental disease. Additionally, your dog should receive regular dental wellness checks from a licensed veterinarian and, if necessary, a cleaning and thorough dental assessment under anesthesia.
Dental health can significantly impact grooming and, in some cases, prevent the possibility of safe grooming. A sore mouth will change how dogs relate to even the gentlest groomers. Challenges that may arise when grooming or repeatedly attempting to groom a dog with advanced dental disease can result in dogs that are:
- Fearful of elements of the groom or even visiting the groomer
- Difficult for face washing or face handling
- Aggressive toward the groomer or grooming tools during face trimming
The role groomers can take in dental care for our clients is limited since groomers are not trained and licensed to perform dental assessments and treatments. Here are ways groomers can help:
- Introduce dogs, especially puppies, to the toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Demonstrate proper brushing technique.
- Recommend products such as pet-safe toothpaste and appropriate-size toothbrushes.
- Observe the condition of dogs' mouths during grooming and report anything that deviates from normal, like odor, redness, swelling, visually loose teeth, debris caught in the mouth, or lumps/growths.
Groomers are allowed to brush dogs' teeth. However, brushing only at grooming visits is insufficient to prevent tartar build-up and dental decay. Additionally, brushing inflamed gums can cause pets distress. Therefore, starting a brushing routine with puppies or after a dental cleaning at your veterinarian's office is best.
Lastly, groomers understand routine brushing seems like a daunting task. Nevertheless, a dental care routine of a few minutes daily will positively impact a pet's overall health and well-being. Remember to have your pet's dental health assessed yearly by a veterinarian.