Part of a vet tech’s job is to educate pet owners about the importance of preventative care for their pets. Part of this education involves dental cleaning and good dog hygiene. One of the questions many pet owners have is, “How can I get plaque off my dog’s teeth?” Since plaque can lead to heart disease, bad breath and loss of teeth, it is important for pet owners to take care of their pet’s teeth.
How Can I Get Plaque Off My Dog’s Teeth?
There are a few ways to get plaque of a dog’s teeth. The most common ways include regular teeth brushing, allowing a dog to teeth or chew on objects, dog treats, and regular dental cleanings. Sticking to a regular regime of teeth cleaning is important for any dog’s health.
Regular Teeth Brushing
It is a good idea to start brushing your dog’s teeth as a puppy, so they get used to having their teeth brushed. For older dogs, an owner can start by putting some dog toothpaste on their finger and rubbing it on the dog’s teeth and gums. This will get the dog used to having their teeth brushed and start removing plaque at any age. Once the dog is used to the finger, then the owner can introduce a pet toothbrush. They should let the dog lick the toothbrush with dog toothpaste, so they don’t become afraid. It is important to brush a dog’s teeth on a regular basis to reduce the amount of tartar and plaque.
It is also very important that a dog owner uses toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs. Human toothpaste has chemicals and ingredients that can upset a dog’s stomach when they swallow the toothpaste. As a vet tech, you can educate pet owners on proper pet hygiene for preventative care. Among other things, losing a tooth can make eating more difficult for a pet.
Chewing on Objects
A great way for a dog to remove plaque from their teeth and have fun in the process is to chew on objects that are safe, healthy and natural, like rawhide. Chewing rawhide is a natural way for a dog to remove plaque from their teeth. Chewing raw bones is another way for dogs to remove plaque from their teeth. Make sure that the bones are not cooked as they may splinter and cut the dog’s mouth or throat. Also, make sure the bones are not too small so the dog can’t swallow them.
Many dog treats are formulated to help clean a dog’s teeth. Some dog treats help reduce tartar and plaque. Many help reduce bad breathe, and that is great news for small dogs that like to sit on their owners lap. Although not a substitute for brushing and annual cleanings, dog chews and treats can help minimize the amount of plaque and tartar build up on a dog’s teeth. It will be up to you, as a vet tech to guide the dog owner in finding the best dog chews on the market to help minimize plaque on teeth. Not all products that tout dog health are actually healthy for dogs to chew. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has a list of approved dog products for removing plaque and tartar. Some are available over the counter and some can only be purchased at a vet’s office. They include dental bites, rawhide chews, edible chew treats, additives, gels, oral sprays, dog safe toothpastes and powder that can be added to food. The VOHC recommends different dog toothbrushes and wipes for consumers. They also have recommendations on specific tooth sealants that you can use at your vet clinic.
Every dog should see the vet on a regular basis. Many vets recommend that dogs get their teeth cleaned annually. Since this is oral surgery, a vet will need to take a blood test to make sure the dog can handle anesthesia. Once the dog’s blood test comes back ok, the dog is prepared for a teeth cleaning. You will use some type of breathing tube and an intravenous catheter to help the dog breath under anesthesia and keep liquids from getting into the lungs. As the vet tech, you will rinse the dog’s mouth out to do a general inspection. Then use hand tools and an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque and tartar. You will also clean above the gum line where bacteria can grow. Dental X-rays may be used to identify roots that are diminished, that may cause a tooth to become loose.
Part of the dental cleaning is tooth extraction. Some teeth may be loose, fractured or unhealthy. After a tooth extraction, you will educate the dog owner on how to administer anti-biotics and pain medicine for the dog. The owner will administer this medicine for approximately a week after the tooth extraction. Once all the extractions are complete, you will move on to polishing the teeth. Polishing the teeth makes it much harder for plaque to adhere. After the teeth are polished, you will rinse out the mouth and help it dry. At the end of the procedure you will administer a fluoride foam to the teeth to help protect them. The dog will recover from anesthesia and be ready to come home.
After any surgery, it is important to let the owner know not to let the dog drink too much water. Due to ‘dry mouth’ they may want to drink their water dish dry. The owner should administer a small portion of water every 20 minutes until the dog has had enough water. A light meal can be given to the dog for dinner after the procedure. The next day, the dog can go back to their normal diet. If the dog has had a tooth extraction, any hard food should be softened for about two weeks for the teeth to recover.
Why is It Important to Keep a Dog’s Teeth Clean?
There are many reasons to keep a dog’s teeth clean from plaque and tartar. Not only does tartar cause bad breath but poor dog hygiene can cause teeth decay, tooth bone loss and ultimately the dog must undergo extraction. Similar to humans, the build-up of plaque is also unhealthy for a dog. Plaque and bacteria can enter the dog’s blood stream and cause heart disease in dogs. The risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions increases as dental disease worsens.
Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs
A vet tech should educate a dog owner about the signs of heart disease so that they catch heart disease early in dogs. Some of the symptoms include a dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, restless sleeping, rapid weight loss, fainting, and increased fluid in the stomach causing a potbelly. Let the dog owner know to contact the vet if they suspect any of these symptoms are occurring. It is also important for you to check for these symptoms during an annual exam.
Communication is an important skill for you to master so you can educate dog owners on proper dental hygiene. Make sure the dog is seen regularly and that the dog has their teeth cleaned annually. Educate the dog owner on proper teeth hygiene, brushing, dog chews and dental cleaning procedures. A clean mouth makes a happy dog, and with all their teeth they can fully enjoy all the treats the owner will give them.
Do you have a passion for animals? Are you a good communicator and enjoy educating dog owners about teeth hygiene? With an Associate Degree in Veterinary Technology, you’ll gain the knowledge, qualities and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.
Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.