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Oral Care Essential for Dogs' Health

Dogs, like people, are living longer thanks to advancements in preventative health care. That means that illnesses and parasites that once were the culprit behind a short life span are no longer the threats they once were. Now oral health care issues have become a leading problem for dogs. Fortunately, such problems are largely preventable.

A new puppy comes home full of life and with sweet breath. As a dog ages, however, foul breath can become the norm and make interacting with a pet an undesirable affair. Bad breath is one of the key signs of poor oral health and an indication that owner should take action.

While it's largely believed that eating and gnawing on bones is enough to keep plaque and tartar build-up at bay, this isn't the case. Dogs need routine brushing of their teeth for optimum health. Failure to do so opens dogs up to the build-up of food and bacteria, which can contribute to tartar and gum disease.

Research indicates as much as 85 percent of all dogs have some form of gum disease. In addition to bad breath and tooth loss, periodontal disease can increase a dog's risk of heart disease.

Ideally, a dog's teeth should be brushed at least once a day. But many people do not take the time to brush dogs' teeth. At the very least, the task should be done once a week. This is the single best way to help keep periodontal disease at bay and prolong a pet companion's life. There are other steps to take that can reduce tartar build-up and fight bad "doggy" breath.

* Use antibacterial wipes (found at the pet supply store) to reduce the amount of bacteria in a dog's mouth that can contribute to plaque.

* Routinely inspect the gums and teeth to check for discoloration or tartar build-up.

* Consult with a veterinarian if the problem is bad. He or she may have to perform a professional dental cleaning, which is conducted while the dog is under anesthesia.

* There are many bones and other dental-health products that can help remove plaque scaling from the teeth.

* Observe a dog's behavior and look for problems that could indicate mouth pain, such as pawing at the mouth or trouble eating.

As in people, periodontal disease can lead to other issues, including heart disease, and should be taken seriously. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is an easy task and one that can greatly prolong the life of a furry pal.