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 disease—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 pet’s mouth
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.
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
Many products are available to assist you in keeping your pet’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 pet’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 pet’s
Regular veterinary exams every six months to every year and a
half will help you determine how successful your home treatment
Good preventative care now can help keep your pet’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 dog’s teeth by
anesthetizing them first, but that can be pricy. It’s much
easier and less expensive to prevent dental problems before
they start. Here are five tips to brighten your dog’s smile.
Feed Crunchy Foods
While dry commercial diets won’t do the whole job, they don’t
contribute to tartar buildup as much as canned diets do. You
can also look for therapeutic “dental diets” 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
vegetables like carrots or apples have a “detergent”
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 can’t get a dog to gargle with mouthwash. But there are
commercial dental rinses you can add to your dog’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 “chew ropes” 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
(AAHA), almost two-thirds of pet parents aren't protecting
their pet’s teeth properly.What can you do to make sure your
pet’s dental hygiene is up to snuff?
Brushing your pet’s teeth
regularly, one to three times a week
, is a good target schedule. If you’re wondering how to begin,
take a look at these helpful tips on
brushing your dog's
. You’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 they’ll become. Try
handling your pet’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 they’ve just completed a fantastic
trick. (And maybe even reward them with a
Take the opportunity to
check out your pet’s mouth
—inflamed gums, loose teeth, and cysts under the tongue can be
signs of larger problems, so you’ll want to take your pet to
the veterinarian.Your pet’s breath may never smell minty-fresh,
but regular brushing will help to keep away truly offensive
breath, and will help your pet’s teeth and gums stay strong.
More on Pet Dental Care
How to Brush Your Dog's
Bad Breath in Dogs and
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.