Your dog’s bad breath might tell you more than what type of snack he found out in the yard.

Bad breath, along with red and swollen gums, brown teeth, frequent pawing at the mouth, and reluctance to eat hard foods, can mean that your pet has a dental disease.

National Pet Dental Health Month is an initiative by the American Veterinary Medical Association that encourages pet owners to brush and care for their animal’s teeth.

Dental disease in animals is all too common, but can lead to more serious problems, and an untreated dental disease can spread to the heart, kidneys, and other organs of the animal.

“The majority of pets that come in have some level of dental disease,” said Dr. David Gallagher, of Clear Creek Animal Hospital, adding that about 50 percent of pets that they see have early dental disease.

Gallagher noted that simple steps can be taken to prevent your pet from developing gingivitis and periodontal disease.

“The number one-by far-best thing we can do is brush their teeth like we brush our teeth,” Gallagher said.

The type of toothpaste for pets is different than for humans, containing an enzyme that does most of the work, breaking down the tartar, plaque, and food particles.

Gallagher also said there are products like toys, special rawhide, water additives, and other toys and treats that help with a pet’s dental health, but the most extensive and effective preventative measure is brushing.

“I think if you can mark it on the calendar and make yourself get into the habit of doing it for about two weeks, then it becomes like a ritual, you know, I brush my teeth, I brush the dog’s teeth, I go to bed,” said Gallagher.

Clear Creek Animal Hospital promotes dental health for pets year-round, and have lower prices for preventative dentistry. Just like humans, pets need regular check-ups for dental health, and the AVMA recommends that be once a year, but Gallagher said it could be several years between seeing pets of their clients.

For the first three months of the year, Clear Creek is doing a promotion for dentistry, where every pet that gets a dental cleaning is entered to win a $250 Visa gift card.

“Periodontal disease is the number one disease in pets by far, most pets that come in have some level of oral disease that needs to be addressed,” said Gallagher. “By far it outranks everything else, it’s just not something that I think people are aware of.”