Hello, Dallas Voice readers and welcome back to my monthly Woof column. The February edition is always special to me because it marks my anniversary as a Dallas Voice columnist and contributor: It has been four years already! I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for Dallas Voice, and I hope I can continue to provide useful information to our animal lovers. Thank you all for your support.

February has officially started, and that means it is National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental disease is by far one of the most common diseases affecting dogs and cats, and the most common thing parents identify as part of dental disease is their pup or kitty’s bad breath (halitosis).

But dental disease involves much more than bad breath. It includes gingivitis, plaque, tartar, tooth root exposure, abscesses, oral pain, wiggly teeth, bone loss around teeth sockets and even jaw fractures.

Just like with people, there are techniques for daily dental care at home we can use with our pets to help prevent the worst parts of dental disease. To help us choose the best pet dental products, we have the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which is the veterinary version of the American Dental Association. I recommend visiting their website — VOHC.org — to find a list of products approved for oral care for dogs and cats.

Start with one product at a time from their list and slowly add to your pet’s daily routine until you are able to brush their teeth, give them dental treats and use water/food additives altogether. The gold standard for daily pet dental care will continue to be brushing our pet’s teeth, but that is easier said than done, LOL. I promise that if you approach it little by little though, it can be done!

From the VOHC list, choose a toothpaste and start by offering just a small portion of toothpaste to your pet as a treat every day. Once your baby likes the taste of it, start touching a few of your baby’s teeth with the toothpaste on your finger once daily, for about a week or so.

Slowly continue to touch more and more teeth until you can touch almost all of them. During this process, your pet will likely try to lick the toothpaste, and that is OK.

Once you have finished this step, you can incorporate the toothbrush and start all over again, little by little. Here is a hint: You do not have to open their mouths at all when brushing their teeth because the interior sides of their teeth do not need to be brushed as much as the outside. But do brush all the way to the back of their mouths.

Make sure to take it slow and associate this process with a good experience; we want this to be a lifelong addition to the care and well-being of our kiddos.

If your baby will not let you touch their teeth, don’t give up. These pet toothpastes have enzymes that help break down the plaque, so even if you cannot physically brush their teeth, giving them toothpaste as a treat will still help break down some of the plaque.

It is important to note that plaque and tartar are different things. Plaque is that white/clear/light yellow, soft film on the teeth, and tartar is what the plaque turns into once it solidifies or mineralizes. Once the plaque has turned into tartar, only a professional dental cleaning can remove it.

These cleanings are usually performed once yearly and under anesthesia, as our pets need to be still in order for a proper cleaning to be performed. Plus, we need to avoid water from the dental cleaning going down the trachea. Some dogs and cats, however, may need more frequent dental cleanings, and some pets may not be good candidates for anesthetic procedures.

I also want to point out that our more mature babies can be fragile, and we need to be cautious with their anesthetic procedures, if they were to be performed. These concerns and decisions can be addressed when your veterinarian performs an oral exam. I make sure to have a detailed conversation with my clients, setting expectations and also discussing the different options with pros and cons.

You may have heard of non-anesthetic dental cleanings, which are usually performed by non-medical people. Please be aware that while they may seem like a great option to avoid anesthesia, they do not go underneath the gum line to remove an important source of bacterial infection. This means the teeth may look better, but are actually not better. The main issues are just being masked.

I recommend calling your veterinarian’s office and asking for a dental exam. If they recommend a dental cleaning, feel free to ask them if they offer any dental cleaning discount during the month of February. If you do not have a veterinarian or want to visit me in Addison, I will perform a thorough exam on your baby and then discuss the details with you and whether a dental cleaning may be recommended or not.

During the month of February, my hospital is offering a $50 discount from the dental cleaning fee. We hope you will be able to visit us and have us help you with taking care of your kiddo’s oral health.

Thank you all so very much for your support over the years, and I always hope that our readers learn something from my Woof column. Abrazos and have a beautiful month of Febrero.

Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital at 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110, in Addison. Visit IslaVet.com or call 972-738-1111.