CHESAPEAKE, Va. — February is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month. Poor hygiene can do some serious damage to our pet’s health in the long run.

But there are a few ways you can avoid that. Here are some simple ways you can keep your dog’s smile stay bright and strong. 

I spoke with Dr. Denette Cooke of Cooke Veterinary in Chesapeake for a few pointers.

“The American Veterinary Dental Association recommends brushing their teeth every day. I tell people that is very hard when we can’t even eat dinner together as a family. I shoot for trying to brush teeth at least twice per week.” said Dr. Cooke.

“Feed them an ideal diet, keep them ideally weighted and keep their teeth looking good and disease-free and they’ll likely live a long healthy life."

And just like when trying to teach your little human to brush their teeth the same trick works here: make it fun!

“Making it fun by playing little games with it, brushing the teeth," Dr. Cooke explained. "We start with a little toothpaste on the finger rubbing it on their gums for maybe 10 seconds."

If you’ve been to any pet store lately you’ve likely seen plenty of over-the-counter dog dental products. Dr. Cooke said to always stick with the vet brands.

“Dental chews are very helpful and mainly the veterinary products are superior. There are over-the-counter products that they tout as dental hygiene products but the dental products from the vet office tend to work the best.”

The chews have specific rinses to coat your dog's teeth and prevent bacteria from adhering to them. Bacteria forms into tartar and tartar into plaque. So if you can stop it at the beginning, you are one step ahead of the game.

Finally, how do you know if your pet has an issue that requires a visit to the vet?

“The first sign of dental disease is odor. Redness you may see, but odor you are going to smell. They are going to get in your face and you are going to smell those teeth. That’s when they need to be checked out,” said Dr. Cooke.

Dr. Cooke recommends a dental preventive between three and six years. If you do this, hopefully, your dog will have a lot less dental issues as they enter their senior years.