February is National Pet Dental Month!

04 Feb February is National Pet Dental Month!

Tooth Talk

“Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs even though it’s completely preventable“ – AVMA

Oral hygiene is something we care about for our-selves and our children, but what about our furry companions? In this issue we will be covering topics around dental hygiene and discussing some common questions about our pets’ pearly whites.

Trivia Time!

Test your knowledge about your pet’s teeth!
Q1: How many teeth do adult dogs and cats have?
Q2: How many dogs and cats have dental

[Answers on the bottom of page]

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease in cats and dogs is similar to what is seen in humans. Bacteria stick to the sur- face of the tooth and start to form a layer of plaque. Over time, that plaque hardens to become tartar and begins to spread underneath the gum- line. When tartar forms along and underneath the the gums, it causes inflammation and damage to the structures surrounding the tooth.   As periodontal disease progresses, several things can happen. The affected teeth may become loose or break, the animal may have difficulty eating, and in some cases bacteria can get into the blood-stream and have negative effects on other organs like the heart and kidney.

But There’s Good News!

Studies have shown that preventative care such as regular oral exams, professional cleanings, offering certain toys, and brushing your pet’s teeth can drastically improve their dental heath.  Let’s take a moment to highlight each of these components:

  • A thorough oral exam is an important part of the annual physical.  Your veterinarian will have a keen eye for detecting disease early on and can make recommendations tailored to your individual pet.
  • Professional cleanings are done to remove the tartar built up under the gums (where more of the disease occurs) and remove severely affected teeth if necessary. This requires general anesthesia and therefore comes with some risks; how ever, in most cases those risks are far outweighed by the benefits and your veterinarian will be able to help you determine if the procedure is right for your pet.
  • There are many chew toys and treats that are designed to help break down dental plaque and prevent the formation of tartar. Toys will often have slits for the teeth to slide through and treats will be more resistant to chewing so the extra chewing effort helps to break up the plaque. These can be good options if your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing.

Do I Need to Brush my Pet’s Teeth?

Both cats and dogs benefit immensely from regular tooth brushing. It works best when done every 1-2 days. It is important to make sure your pet enjoys the experience, so offering treats and easing into the routine can go a long way. Brushing your pet’s teeth also helps you to spot serious problems like tumors early on and bring then in for further evaluation.

Tips for a Healthy Smile

In addition to brushing your pet’s teeth, here are some other things that can help keep their teeth squeaky clean.

  • Feeding kibble instead of canned food*
  • Dental chews and other long lasting treats
  • Rope and chew toys (examples on page 3)

Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following signs of periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath
  • Tartar build up
  • Loose/broken teeth
  • Pain, swelling, or redness of the gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Lumps, wounds, or bleeding

*Always discuss diet changes with your veterinarian first.

Additional Resources:  How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

The AVMA’s information on dental care


Trivia Answers!  A1: Adult dogs have 42 teeth and cats have 30.  A2: 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease by age 3!