Cat and Dog Dental Disease Pets Can Suffer from Dental and Gum Disease, Too

Cat and Dog Dental Disease
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Pets can get dental disease just like you can, and it's one of the most common issues seen by veterinarians. Find out how to prevent dental disease in your pet.

Did you know that one of the most common problems seen in veterinary clinics is also one of the most preventable? Most veterinarians will agree that 75% or more of the health problems that they see in clinic practice are related to cat or dog dental diseaseโ€”gum disease or periodontal disease. In fact, studies show that most animals already have signs of dental disease by age 3 or 4!

Just like us humans, dogs and cats are as susceptible to gingivitis and periodontal disease. And like us, preventative care can help prevent such problems and keep your petโ€™s mouth pain free.

Gum disease causes plaque to form around the tooth line causing inflammation (gingivitis). As the gums get inflamed, they swell and form pockets that trap bacteria. The bacteria eat away at the tooth support system. If allowed to progress, eventually the problem leads to tooth and jaw bone loss. Also, many experts believe that the bacteria involved in this process can enter the blood stream and cause other serious problems like kidney or heart disease.

Signs of Gingivitis in Pets

Early signs of gingivitis are redness around the gum line, bleeding, inability or discomfort while eating, and bad breath.

Veterinary Treatment

For dental care to treat periodontal disease, your veterinarian may recommend professional cleaning. At the veterinary clinic, your pet will be anesthetized. Then the tartar and plaque can be removed by the veterinarian by scaling devices (much like when your teeth are scraped during a cleaning). Teeth needing repairs like fillings or root canals can be fixed, and teeth beyond repair can be removed. Then the veterinarian polishes the teeth, which slows the progression of further plaque development. If there are signs of bone loss or other more serious oral problems, your veterinarian can evaluate and may wish to refer your pet to veterinary dental care specialist for further care.

Home Prevention

Many products are available to assist you in keeping your petโ€™s mouth healthy from toothbrushes and toothpaste specifically manufactured for pets to dental care treats (like Greenies) and even dental care additives to put in your petโ€™s water bowl. Tooth cleaning towlettes as well as finger-shaped dental treatment devices are also available for owners whose pets may be less cooperative for tooth brushing. Also, tartar-control food is available for both dogs and cats. Your veterinarian can help you determine which home treatments are best for you and your pet. He or she can also show you how to brush your petโ€™s teeth.

Regular veterinary exams every six months to every year and a half will help you determine how successful your home treatment is.

Good preventative care now can help keep your petโ€™s mouth healthy and pain free while also saving you from a larger veterinary bill later on!

Prevent Dental Problems Before They Start

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. We love our dogs and appreciate their affectionate slurpy face kisses, but not if their breath could kill a moose. The bacteria from nasty teeth cause the odor.

About 80 percent of dogs develop dental problems, periodontal disease, by age three! Small breed dogs tend to have more problems but all dogs can develop dental problems. Veterinarians can professionally clean your dogโ€™s teeth by anesthetizing them first, but that can be pricy. Itโ€™s much easier and less expensive to prevent dental problems before they start. Here are five tips to brighten your dogโ€™s smile.

Feed Crunchy Foods   

While dry commercial diets wonโ€™t do the whole job, they donโ€™t contribute to tartar buildup as much as canned diets do. You can also look for therapeutic โ€œdental dietsโ€ or regular foods labeled to promote dog dental health. These have special ingredients that help prevent tarter from adhering to the teeth, or fiber that helps scrub as the dog chews.

Treat With Healthy Chews 

Chewing fresh vegetables like carrots or apples have a โ€œdetergentโ€ action. These foods gently scrub the teeth as the dog chews. Many dogs like the flavor, too. Commercial dental treats also work well to help prevent dental problems.

Offer A Dental Rinse  

You canโ€™t get a dog to gargle with mouthwash. But there are commercial dental rinses you can add to your dogโ€™s drinking water, or squirt in their mouth. 

Avoid Hard Chews  

Chewing is a natural dog behavior. But veterinary dentists warn that dogs often break teeth by chewing very hard objects.  Avoid chew hooves, for example, and supervise your dog if they indulge in rock or fence chewing. 

Give Dental Toys  

A wide variety of doggy dental toys, like Greenies, are available; from โ€œchew ropesโ€ that actually clean and floss teeth, to puzzle toys that encourage therapeutic gnawing. You can stuff puzzle toys with commercial dental treats for a double-whammy of tooth help.

Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.

Pearly Whites: Cleaning Those Dog and Cat Teeth

Did you know that pets need their teeth cleaned just like we do, and that healthy gums and teeth can help your cats and dogs stay healthier all over? According to the

American Animal Hospital Association

(AAHA), almost two-thirds of pet parents aren't protecting their petโ€™s teeth properly.What can you do to make sure your petโ€™s dental hygiene is up to snuff?

Brushing your petโ€™s teeth regularly, one to three times a week

, is a good target schedule. If youโ€™re wondering how to begin, take a look at these helpful tips on

brushing your dog's


catโ€™s teeth

. Youโ€™ll need pet formulated toothpaste and brushes, and a little patience.As with any training, the more you do something with your pet, the more accustomed to it theyโ€™ll become. Try handling your petโ€™s muzzle more often, touching their mouth and lips gently and calmly. Never underestimate the power of praise, so make the experience a good one for your pet and shower praise on them like theyโ€™ve just completed a fantastic trick. (And maybe even reward them with a

dental treat


Take the opportunity to check out your petโ€™s mouth

โ€”inflamed gums, loose teeth, and cysts under the tongue can be signs of larger problems, so youโ€™ll want to take your pet to the veterinarian.Your petโ€™s breath may never smell minty-fresh, but regular brushing will help to keep away truly offensive breath, and will help your petโ€™s teeth and gums stay strong.

More on Pet Dental Care

How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats
Products that Clean Cat and Dog Teeth

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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