By Jodi Hartley

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. More than 80 percent of adult dogs suffer from periodontal disease, making it the most common infectious disease in dogs.

Infection in the gums and bones that surround the teeth cause periodontal disease. The health risks of periodontal disease extend beyond bad breath and tooth loss. Every time a dog eats or chews, a stream of bacteria from the infection enters the bloodstream and can cause disease in other major organs such as the heart and the liver.

Severe periodontal disease can also be painful for many dogs, although they may not show it. They continue to eat even hard dry food by swallowing the pieces whole.

Several simple measures exist to prevent periodontal disease, and treatments are becoming more common to tackle severe periodontal disease.

While feeding dry kibble and using hard chew treats such as raw bones and rawhide do a great job at scrubbing the teeth, they can’t remove plaque below the gum line. That’s where daily brushing comes in.

Toothpaste for dogs comes in a variety of tasty flavors and differs from human toothpaste in that it can be safely swallowed. Toothbrushes specially shaped for effective brushing of a dog’s teeth are available, as are finger brushes. Dental liquids also can be added to the dog’s water to help keep plaque at bay.

Even with daily brushing, most dogs will still need periodic professional teeth cleaning just like humans. Every annual veterinarian exam should include a check of the dog’s teeth and mouth. The veterinarian should recommend a professional cleaning when needed. Although putting dogs under general anesthesia does have some risk, periodontal disease is a greater threat to their health.

For dental care at home, Club Canine offers the Oxyfresh brand (http://www.oxyfresh.com/pet/) of pet oral health care products, and your veterinarian may also provide recommendations.

Mention this article and receive 10% off any Oxyfresh Pet Care product!  pet-oral-hygiene-solution