February may be National Pet Dental Health Awareness Month, but oral health is important all year long.

Early detection and treatment is critical for preventing problems further down the road. Periodontal disease can cause serious pain, making it hard for pets to eat food and groom themselves.

From brushing at home to annual exams, there are steps to take to address your pet’s oral health:

1. Learn the signs of oral health issues.

Does your pet have bad breath? Are they drooling excessively? These may be signs of a health issue. Learn what other signs to look for on the American Veterinary Association’s website.

2. Learn how to brush your pet’s teeth.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the most important at-home treatments you can offer your pet. Daily brushing is best but not always possible. Even a couple times a week is beneficial. Did you do a good job? Show it off on Facebook or Instagram @SPCATampaBay with #petdental #smile.

3. Get annual exams.

Like regular annual check-ups, pets should have dental cleanings once a year. During the cleaning, pets are put under anesthesia and given a full mouth cleaning, polish and X-rays — similar to visiting the dentist. Vets use anesthesia to properly clean the pets’ teeth while protecting the pet from swallowing or biting harmful products.

4. Use pet-friendly products.

Dental chews, water additives and a dental-friendly diet are among the products good for helping to maintain dental health. The Veterinary Oral Health Council reviews products to determine if they are pet-safe. Approved products will have a label on its packaging, and the Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of products on their website.

For more information, visit spcatampabay.org/veterinary-center or call 727-220-1770.

Dr. Lori Nichols graduated from the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017 before joining the SPCA Tampa Bay team in July 2019. Her professional interests include feline medicine, shelter medicine, endocrinology and soft tissue surgery.