TAMPA - Sandi Lehr feels the way most of us do about our pets.
"To me, he's part of the family," says Lehr.
And as part of the family, her dog Harvey gets regular check-ups on his teeth.
"You should take them to the vet and if the vet says that there's a lot of tartar there that they should have them cleaned," says Lehr.
Every pet builds up plague and tartar which can lead to gingivitis. If left untreated, Dr. Matthew Lemmons says periodontal disease can have have life-threatening consequences.
"It can affect their internal organ function. It definitely affects their kidneys and potentially their heart and liver as well," says Dr. Lemmons.
Veterinarians say one of the first signs of infection is dog breath.
"Other things are redness of the gums, teeth that appear damaged, broken or chipped, also excessive tartar accumulation," says Dr. Lemmons. "Tartar should not be on the pet's teeth."
Having your pet's teeth professionally cleaned can be expensive.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks recommends you grab a toothbrush preferably one exclusive to your pet and get started. Your vet can show you how and recommend a toothpaste.
"Regularly brushing your pet's teeth yourself can help avoid the buildup and any additional problems that may lead you to having the professional cleaning done," says Hicks.
If your pet does need a professional cleaning, Hicks recommends you get call three veterinarians to find out what they charge.