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Beyond Pet Dental Health Month

The Groomer’s Year-Round Role in Protecting Pet Oral Health

By Bruce Muller

Groomers are the first line of defense in protecting pet health. They are pet professionals who care for pets once, if not twice or more, a month and see them more often than the occasional visit to the vet. These more frequent contacts allow a groomer to observe any changes in pet health conditions, which is an opportunity to alert and educate pet owners to emerging or deteriorating health conditions and, better yet, to offer effective solutions to common pet health problems. These conditions can include poor gum, teeth, ear, skin, and coat problems.

Pet Oral Health: Not Just in February

Although February’s Pet Dental Health Month draws pet parents’ attention to the value of pets’ healthy mouths, poor oral conditions can begin at any time of year. An alert groomer will check the pet’s overall health during a grooming session year round, particularly the pet’s mouth. The first whiff of a pet’s bad breath is an early warning sign of poor oral health and can signal the onset of gingivitis with plaque and tartar buildup.

Studies show than an overwhelming 80% of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Left unchecked and untreated, these conditions lead to gum disease and loss of teeth. Even worse, the resulting harmful bacteria can enter the pet’s bloodstream, ultimately causing infection or damage to kidneys, lungs, heart, or liver. The older the pet, the more likely gingivitis and periodontal disease are present. So serious are these conditions that they can shorten a pet’s life.

Further, a recent study reported that even kissing dogs that have a lot of bacteria in their mouths could spread bacteria to humans and cause periodontal problems. Recent health stories also demonstrate that poor human oral health is linked to heart disease and other serious medical conditions. Like people who neglect their oral care, ignoring pet bad breath is a potential danger of worsening pet health.

Just as with our dentists who advise brushing and flossing every day for healthy teeth and gums to guard against gingivitis and decay, a pet’s regular oral care should be a daily routine [see photo healthy mouth]. Unlike humans, pets need their guardians to do this for them. Groomers who check the pets’ teeth and gums can suggest easy at-home care with products that will benefit and protect oral health throughout the year.

Take Three Easy Steps Year Round

Pet owners rely on groomers to take notice of their pets’ health conditions and will seek and welcome their advice for remedies. These three steps will position a groomer as a reliable source for pet oral care.

1. Educate Pet owners in the Salon — Often

As a starting point, take advantage of manufacturers’ educational brochures, posters, and signage reminders by displaying them prominently in the salon. Use them to point out before and after photos of an unhealthy mouth versus the pink gums and white teeth of a healthy mouth. One groomer even has sitting on the reception desk a jar of plaque and tartar taken from her pet clients, a vivid educational tool that graphically illustrates what can happen by neglecting the pet’s oral care [see tartar build up photo]. All these tools serve to begin the discussion of the importance of pet oral care, followed by product suggestions, especially when pets are already showing signs of bad breath, plaque, and tartar [see photo]. It may take several times, but gentle persistence pays when framed as concern for the pet.

2. Enlist the Team for Results

Take time with staff, informally or in meetings, to review pet oral conditions and what the salon offers to pet parents. Even role-play as practice for client discussions. SmartPractice, Phoenix, AZ, offers an in-salon cleansing treatment program as well as plentiful take-home educational materials, salon signage, pet oral health evaluation forms and gel and spray products for purchase for at-home daily care as groomer support.

3. Build Vet/Client Relationships for Referrals

Begin with existing vet contacts and familiarize them with the salon’s oral cleansing treatments and the availability of effective oral care products as part of the pet professional team effort to protect pet health. Ask clients for their vets’ names to expand referral sources.

Once clients see the results of regular oral care, they will tell their friends about the salon’s value-added oral care services for valuable word-of-mouth recommendations. One salon owner set up a referral rewards program for her oral care treatments.

Immediate Results with Long Term Benefits

Pet Dental Health Month is just the beginning of awareness and the first step to pet oral care protection. The immediate benefits of pet cleansing treatments and daily at-home care product use produces easily visible results, much to the gratitude of responsible pet parents.

It has taken the ADA 25 years of continual reminders for people to take care of their own teeth and gums. Educating pet parents to take daily action concerning their pets’ oral health begins with groomers taking a proactive role in helping them understand the importance to do the same for their pets – every day, every grooming session, year round. ✂

Bruce Muller is Marketing Director of Pet Products at SmartPractice (www.smartpractice.com/vet), a company with a 40-year history of providing quality products and services for human and pet health professionals worldwide. SmartPractice markets PlaqClnz Oral Cleansing Treatment, PlaqClnz Spray and Gel, CutisClr 7.0 skin care, and OticClr ear care among other pet healthcare products. For more information, visit www.groomeroralcare.com or contact Bruce Muller at (800) 433.7297, ext. 7225, or muller@smarthealth.com.