Q: Our veterinarian said our dog needs to have a teeth cleaning. We have noticed that his breath stinks a lot, but figured that it is just doggy breath. He gets groomed every month and the groomer brushes his teeth each time, so I don’t know why he would be having issues and need to have his teeth cleaned. Is this really necessary?

A: I’m guessing that you have a small-breed dog since he is getting groomed monthly. Most of the small-breed dogs that we see begin to develop dental issues as they get older, sometimes even when they are as young as 3-4 years of age. If your veterinarian is noticing issues with his teeth and gums already, then you definitely need to have them cleaned.

The brushing that your groomer is doing is minimally helpful, and that is being charitable in my estimation. Imagine if you only brushed or flossed your teeth once per month how disgusting your teeth would get over time. You would very quickly build up large amounts of plaque and tartar that would have no chance of being removed with your monthly brushing. Your dog’s mouth is unfortunately the same in that plaque and tartar are constantly building up, leading to bacteria getting within and under the gums. The doggy breath that you smell is from the gases that are being produced by those bacteria.

A thorough teeth cleaning by your veterinarian will use an ultrasonic cleaner to remove all of the plaque and tartar and specifically target any buildup under the gum line. After the cleaning has been completed, you may want to start brushing your dog’s teeth at home, but you need to do it at a minimum of several times weekly, if not daily, for it to be effective long term.

Got a pet-related question? Send it to Dr. Anderson, a veterinarian at Hawthorne Park Animal Care Center in Bloomington, via email at features@pantagraph.com.

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