Pet Dental Care

Good dental hygiene is as important for pets as it is for humans. Yet, studies reveal that 70% of pet owners do not provide the dental care recommended by veterinarians.

Periodontal disease is the most common disease for pets and affects 68% of cats and 79% of dogs by age three. It is caused primarily by bacterial plaque that attaches to the teeth and results in inflammation both above and below the gums. It can spread to the roots and bone causing pain, tooth loss and chronic infection.

Diseases of the oral cavity, if left untreated, can lead to kidney and cardiac problems. Luckily, periodontal disease is treatable and easy to prevent. It should be part of the routine care since it is just as important as vaccinations, nutrition and parasite control.

Sign of oral disease:

-Bad breath

-Inflamed gums

-Tartar build up

-Decreased appetite

-Weight loss

-Oral pain

-Difficulty chewing

Our pets can mask or hide their pain, therefore it is important to check their mouth weekly and to have a veterinarian check up every six months. Proper dental care improves a pet’s quality and length of life.

What can be done to prevent it?

Home care is as important as professional care. Besides checking our dogs and cats mouth periodically, we can provide the necessary care to prevent and slow down oral disease.

The most important thing that we can do is brush their teeth. Tooth brushing is better tolerated when started early on life, but you can start at anytime. The best way to brush teeth is with a finger brush and toothpaste for pets.  Gently brush on the outside of your pet’s teeth and gums, at a 45 degree angle, using small, circular motions, working in one area of the mouth at a time. Be sure to lift the lips to reach better and don’t worry about the inside of the teeth because very little tartar builds up there.

You should be patient and start slowly, get your pet used to be touched around the mouth, and most important – don’t get discouraged.

There are other tools that can be used for home care of teeth in conjunction with brushing:

-Tartar control treats

-Dental diets

-Water additives (antiseptic solutions that can be added to the water bowl)

-Chew toys

Treating oral disease early is key, which is why it’s important to get a biannual exam by your vet for early detection of any abnormalities.

During the oral exam the doctor will check for tartar build up, gum health, cyst and tumors or growths. The vet may recommend a professional dental cleaning when needed. Most cats and small breeds of dogs will need the first dental cleaning by age 2-3 (sometimes earlier), and medium and large breeds by age 3-4. The frequency of cleanings depends on each pet’s individual needs, but in most cases will be annual.

Periodontal disease is preventable and affects all our pets. Through home care and visits to the veterinarian every 6 months, we can improve our dogs and cat’s length and quality of life.


Dr. Juan Castro is a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital located in Falls Church, VA.  You can reach him at 703-237-5610 or by email at [email protected]


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