Your dog's yearly vet checkup will include a complete physical exam, with a visual and tactile investigation of your dog's head, body and tail, and all his assorted cavities. Because even the most cooperative dog might not readily go along with a regular tooth- and gum-brushing, a yearly cleaning by your vet may be in order. Like you, your dog can lose his teeth due to decay and neglect. It's a good idea to keep a dated medical diary not only of the procedures and vaccinations your dog receives at the vet, but also of notes on such things as your pet's elimination habits and any physical changes or unusual occurrences. Keep track of small shifts in his behavior, including urinary-marking habits and mood swings, along with modifications in diet and other routines. Take the notebook when you visit the vet. These seemingly unrelated events might help explain results of your dog's medical tests. Also, if you're traveling, or if you need to change vets, it's good to have such a journal to provide a complete medical history.
Choose a vet who is calm, compassionate and willing to explain all the procedures your dog undergoes. Don't be afraid to shop around to find a vet with whom both you and your dog feel comfortable. For your convenience, choose a clinic with qualified staff and facilities to undertake surgery and perform procedures requiring anesthesia, such as teeth cleaning. Because of the general risks anesthesia poses -- especially for very old, very young or very ill dogs -- your vet will likely suggest a few tests, including a chest X-ray and a lab exam of blood and urine, before your dog is anesthetized. During the procedure he might need an IV drip; antibiotics may be necessary before and after. Ask your vet to outline the procedure for you.
Your vet may refer you to a specialist -- veterinarians who have completed advanced studies in specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, and emergency and critical care -- if your dog must undergo a procedure that requires more precise knowledge and experience.
You might want to look into medical insurance for your pet. Research the various insurance plans available, noting exactly what they cover, and weigh the cost benefit against that of using your credit card or having a special savings account for unforeseeable medical expenses that may come with caring for a dog.