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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Mohon-Sturch

The Importance of Dental Care for your Pets

Updated: Mar 1

Have you noticed a difference in your pet’s mood? Maybe they’re not eating as well as they normally do, or maybe they seem grumpy. Have you noticed, maybe, that their breath has a terrible odor? Get thee to the veterinarian!


Tooth and mouth issues for your pets are as serious as they are for humans. When you take your dog or cat for their yearly checkup, your vet will look at the mouth to see that everything is healthy, but between visits, it’s good to maintain dental health for your pets, just as you do for yourself.

Care In-Between Visits


Dental health has much to do with the overall health of your pet. A lot of ‘stuff’ gets in their mouths and bacteria is one of those things that can cause trouble if it’s not managed. More on that later in this blog. Right now, here are things you can do at home to boost your fur baby’s dental health. Most of these items are available for dogs and cats. Check the product labels to be sure they’re safe for dogs and/or cats.


-         Brush their teeth! Easy for me to say, right? Give it a try. Get a toothbrush and toothpaste from a pet store and ease your pet into the joys of teeth cleaning. There are also finger brushes that might be easier to use if you have a dog or cat that has difficulty with a toothbrush. If you have multiple pets, be sure to have separate brushes for each of them.


-         There are products on the market now that you can add to your pet’s water bowl that acts like an oral disinfectant. Ask at your favorite pet store about what they carry or look at the bottom of this blog for the links to the best dental health products.


-         Like the water additive, there are sprays that you can buy that act like a mouthwash. They come in flavors, or no flavor, depending on your pet’s taste.


-         Dental chews are also a good way to keep the plaque at bay on your dog’s teeth. Many brands carry dental chews and they come in various sizes and flavors.

- There are also dental wipes available in case brushing doesn't work for you. These are wet wipes for the teeth!

-         Clean their toys! This sounds weird, but keeping their toys clean will help prevent other bacteria from forming in their mouths.


Signs that Something Might Be Wrong


If something at all seems off, behavioral or physical, please see your veterinarian. But specific signs that there might be trouble in the mouth, and you should call your veterinarian are:


-         Bad breath

-         Trouble chewing

- Discolored teeth

-         Refusal to eat, or dropping food while eating

-         Drooling

-         Any swelling or pain around the mouth and jaw

-         Swollen gums

-         Any broken teeth or bleeding

-         Your pet seems irritable or agitated


It’s also good to check your pet’s mouth on occasion to see if everything ‘checks out’. It might be harder with your cat, so you’ll have to find opportunities, like when they yawn. Give it a look. Make sure their teeth are white and not broken. Check the color of the tongue and gums, they should be a healthy pink.


What is Periodontal Disease?


Bacteria is something that already resides in our mouths, including your pet’s. When an animal receives no dental care, the bacterium in the mouth starts to create plaque on the gumline. It only takes a few days for the plaque to harden into tartar. The bacterium makes its way under the gums and causes inflammation, which is called gingivitis – this is the first stage of periodontal disease. There are four stages of periodontal disease. Here are the stages and what is involved from the Pawlicy Adviser Blog (Periodontal Disease In Dogs: Stages, Symptoms & Treatment Costs | Pawlicy Advisor):


  • Stage 1: Gingivitis (infection of the gums) presents with mild redness and swelling. Tartar buildup might also be apparent in some areas. The supporting structures around the canine's teeth are still intact at this point.

  • Stage 2: Early periodontitis is characterized by a 25% loss of the tooth’s attachment to supporting structures. The gums are more irritated and redder at this point.

  • Stage 3: During this stage (moderate periodontitis), 25-50% of tooth support is lost. The teeth in stages two and three do not appear noticeably different to the naked eye, but an x-ray will reveal more bone loss.

  • Stage 4: Advanced or severe periodontitis indicates bone loss of 50% or greater. In this final stage, tartar is clearly visible to the naked eye, the gums are receding, the teeth are compromised, and tooth extraction may be necessary.


It is imperative that dental issues are treated as soon as possible as they can lead to other issues in the body. Untreated dental issues can lead to changes in liver, kidney, and heart muscle.


What You Need to Know Before Putting your Pet under Anesthesia


Before you submit to a dental cleaning, which includes putting your pet under anesthesia, make sure your veterinarian does a blood panel called pre-anesthetic blood testing. This test prescreens for any abnormalities in your pet’s body that may complicate the procedure. If there are problems with the bloodwork, your vet and you will need to talk about the next steps since going under anesthesia will not be possible until the bloodwork checks out.











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