Ask the Vet - Dr. Whitehead • Dr. Forsythe


It’s National Dental Health Month

Dear Dr. Abbie: We just got a new puppy a few weeks ago. When we got him his shots, the vet said we needed to start brushing his teeth. We never did this with our old dog. How do you brush a dog’s teeth? – Chewy’s Mom

Dear Chewy’s Mom: There are so many things we do with our pets now that we never used to do in the good old days, and teeth brushing is one of them.

The pet industry is now a two billion dollar a year industry.  Our dogs now have special beds, and different foods depending on their breed. We can have matching outfits, and Fifi just has to have a new collar and leash for every holiday.  Veterinary medicine has improved so much recently, also. One of the areas of improvement is in oral care for pets.  Brushing is the best way to keep your pet’s teeth pearly white, along with twice yearly check-ups at the vet.  I wonder what would happen to dogs’ health if people spent money on getting their dog’s teeth cleaned at the vet instead of new collars, leashes and beds for every season.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has a great short video about how to introduce the toothbrush to your pets. Here is the link: http://www.avma.org/animal_health/npdhm/default.asp

Like any new activity not innately addicting like cigarettes or TV, it takes about a month of regular practice for the routine to become a habit.  Remember those New Year’s resolutions? – Dr. Abbie

Dear Dr. Abbie: Our groomer does teeth cleaning for dogs. It is way less expensive than what our vet charges. Why can’t I just take our dog to the groomer for his teeth cleaning? Signed, Allegra’s Mom

Dear Allegra’s Mom: Thanks to you both for asking dental related questions during Dental Health Month! But let me ask you… Do you get your teeth cleaned at a hair salon? No, you go to the dentist and the hygienist cleans your teeth while the dentist is in the office. A dentist attends universities for at least eight years to become licensed to take care of people’s teeth and gums. The licensed dental hygienist needs college for two years. If you did not have dental insurance, this service would cost around $200.

Clinical research in people shows that regular dental care improves human life. You get to keep your teeth for eighty some odd years, and hopefully, the dog is not the only one still willing to kiss you. If your stylist did your teeth? You want teeth lightened, and they came out orange?  An up do? Feathers, anyone?

Seriously, your groomer is not licensed to perform veterinary medicine, and teeth cleaning is considered a veterinary procedure. Veterinarians, like ‘real doctors,’ go to universities for eight years or more earning a license to help keep your pet healthy, or intervene medically or surgically when needed.  Many veterinary technicians are also licensed. A botched hairdo can make a person very unhappy, but botched dental work? Even worse.  Thanks for writing.  – Dr. Abbie

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