Pet Dental Care: The Home Edition 

There are definitive ways to prevent periodontal disease, but like other facets of health, the journey starts at home. Sure, it can be an uphill battle to convince some pets that daily tooth brushing can be fun, but routine pet dental care, both at home and in the veterinarian’s office, sets the stage for long term health and wellness. 

Setting the Tone

One reason for annual wellness checks is the opportunity to look inside your pet’s mouth. A quick flip of the lip can be informative, but it really is only one piece of the puzzle. We might be able to quickly ascertain that some level of dental disease is present because of bleeding or inflamed gums, or foul-smelling breath. 


Not Just Hype: Pet Dental Care Is Paramount to Pet Health 

It used to be that pet owners would simply grin and bear their pet’s foul-smelling breath. However, it’s no longer recommended to accept doggie breath or tuna breath as natural. The first sign that there are problems in the mouth is bad breath! 

Because pet dental care is linked to so many different areas of overall health, caring for their teeth and gums is absolutely crucial to their longevity.

Adult Pet Problems

The vast majority of cats and dogs over the age of two suffer from periodontal (gum) disease. While it’s not viewed as an issue plaguing younger pets, the fact is, gum disease is 100% preventable. If a pet dental care routine is established early on, a pet stands a better chance of enjoying a longer, healthier life. 


Spotlight on Pet Dental Care: Do Pets Really Need Regular Teeth Cleaning?

Of the many things we check during your pet’s routine wellness exam, the health of their teeth and gums ranks pretty high. Even a brief peek inside gives us a basic understanding of their current oral health – and what the future might bring. Without regular teeth cleaning and at-home pet dental care, the animals we love may face serious health risks.

Committing to the Big Picture

Brushing your pet’s teeth might seem like just another chore you can push to the back burner. This is especially true if your pet is opposed to the activity. However, by introducing the act of brushing in a positive way – and rewarding your pet – they’re more likely to believe this is just another act of love on your part (and it is!).  


The Need for Regular Pet Dental Care

Pet dental care by a veterinarian, as well as at home, contributes to overall pet health. We all know how important regular dental care is for ourselves and our children. We brush twice a day, floss and see our dentist annually for checkups and professional cleaning. But what if we told you that regular pet dental care is just as important?

It’s true! If you imagine what it would feel like to never brush your teeth or see a dentist, you begin to get the picture. Taking good care of your pet’s oral health is of vital importance. Animal Medical Hospital shows you why!

A Common Problem

Dental disease in pets is extremely common. Studies show that by the time our pets reach 4 years of age, 85% of them have some form of dental disease. But many of us don’t realize this problem exists, until dental disease is advanced. Most pet owners don’t regularly look into their pets’ mouths, and pets are masters at hiding their pain and discomfort, making it even more difficult to know when there’s a problem. Continue…

What to Expect: Puppy and Kitten Teeth

By Dr. Bridget Andersen

Did you know that puppies have 28 deciduous (baby) teeth by the time they are 3-6 weeks of age and that kittens have 26?

  • At around 3-4 months of age puppies and kittens start to lose their baby teeth and their first adult teeth will start to erupt, starting with incisors, premolars and then molars.   The canine teeth are the last to erupt, typically at 6 months of age.
  • Many owners never find their pets baby teeth, as they are often swallowed while chewing.

It is important to offer your pet several safe chewing options during this time to keep your pet, and your home, safe.

  • For puppies it is ideal to offer them pliable chew toys that will massage the gums as the teeth are erupting.   The best choices are non-toxic rawhide, soft nylon, rubber chew toys, and specifically designed dental chews.
  • When offering your puppy a non-digestible toy – monitor it closely to make sure that they are unable to chew it into piecesthat could become lodged in the gastrointestinal system.  However be careful on your search for an indestructible chew toy because animal bones, antlers, and hard plastics and nylons can fracture your puppy’s tooth – creating pain and a potential for infection or even damage to the permanent tooth.
  • Kittens love to chew during this stage as well and their needs can often be satisfied with crunchy food and treats.  Avoid cloth, strings, and rope (anything with a linear shape) during this phase of your puppies or kittens life as these items can easily become obstructions in the gastrointestinal tract.

     Your puppy will eventually erupt 42 permanent teeth and your cat will erupt 32.

    These teeth will require daily oral care.

  • It is best to start brushing their teeth at a young age to get them accustomed to you having your fingers in their mouths.
  • You can use a bristle finger brush or a pet tooth brush, in conjunction with pet safe toothpaste to massage the outer surfaces of the teeth and gum line.
  • If the brush and toothpaste combination is too cumbersome, a chlorhexidine dental wipe will work just as well to remove the plaque and bacteria that lead to periodontal disease.  While daily oral care is best, oral care at home can be beneficial even if performed only a few times a week.
  • For times when brushing is not possible, there are many products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council to help keep your pets mouth clean.  Ask your vet about products with the VOHC seal to help you with your pet’s daily home oral care. The list of approved products can be found at

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

 Studies have shown that a healthy mouth can actually add years to your pet’s life.  80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have some form of dental disease before they turn three.  Dental problems don’t just affect the mouth, either.  Dental disease can have adverse effects on the heart, kidneys, and other major organs.  By performing routine cleanings before there are significant problems, we help our pets stay a healthier longer. In recognition of National Pet Dental Health Month, we are offering a 10% discount on your pet’s dental cleaning if you schedule your pet’s dental during February.  Call us today to schedule your pet’s cleaning and help add more years to love!

Dental Care at Home

At some point, most pets do need to go under anesthesia for a thorough dental cleaning. By taking some simple steps at home, however, you may be able to decrease the frequency these cleanings are needed and help prevent problems that result in more extensive dental work.

  • Brush your pet’s teeth! Even if you can’t brush every day, developing a routine with your pet is one of the most effective ways of stopping plaque and tartar buildup.
    • Introduce your pet to tooth brushing slowly using lots of praise. Start by introducing your finger into the mouth (dipping it in something tasty like broth or tuna helps!)
    • Keep sessions short and positive!
    • Once your pet tolerates your finger, you can slowly introduce a soft, wet toothbrush.
    • Once your pet tolerates brushing you can introduce him to a special veterinary toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste for your pet.
    • Don’t force it. Some pets do not allow their teeth to be brushed.  If your pet becomes irritated or aggressive, don’t push the issue.
  • Utilize products advocated by your veterinarian to help prevent plaque and tartar. Certain treats and foods have been shown to help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. These are particularly helpful for pets that do not tolerate brushing.  We would be happy to assist you in selecting products appropriate for your pet.
  • Avoid table scraps! These increase the speed at which plaque and tartar accumulate, as well as causing other problems.
  • See your vet. Your pet’s semi-annual wellness appointments are the best time to discuss your pet’s dental health and what further steps should be taken.

Tuna Breath

Dental cleaning is important for all of our furry friends.  But did you know that cats are predisposed to several conditions besides periodontal disease that dogs do not experience?  These make dental examinations and cleanings even more important for our feline companions.

Feline gingivostomatitis is a condition in which the cat’s body becomes allergic to the plaque around the teeth.   Affected cats develop very painful swellings in the mouth that can cause difficulty eating and even grooming.  Many treatments exist may be tried, however often the most effective treatment is removal of all or most of the teeth.

Over half of kitties over the age of six will experience feline oral resorptive lesions.  This painful condition results when normal cells in the tooth called odontoblasts create holes in the tooth near the gumline similar to a cavity.  As these progress they can become infected and excruciatingly painful. The underlying cause for feline tooth resorption is unknown at this time.  Cats with this problem may show pain, exhibit drooling, bleeding from the mouth, or have difficulty eating. Treatment may include removing all or part of the affected teeth.

By allowing your veterinarian to perform recommended dental procedures these problems can be addressed early, allowing your cat to spend more time thinking about his catnip mouse and less time about a painful tooth.


Behind Closed Doors…

Despite the best of efforts, most pets can benefit from having a dentistry performed at some point in their life.  In fact, you should plan for your pet to require a dental cleaning every 1-2 years after 3 years of age (this may vary between animals).  But what really happens when you drop your furry friend off for this procedure?

1. General anesthesia
In order for your veterinarian to provide the best care for your pet full anesthesia is required.  An awake animal will not tolerate a thorough cleaning and full examination of the mouth.  The veterinarian customizes a safe anesthetic protocol for each individual pet.  Anyone who claims to be able to perform this procedure without anesthesia likely does not have your pet’s best interest at heart.
2. Thorough oral exam and charting
The mouth and each tooth are extensively examined, a procedure that is impossible to fully do in a conscious animal.  Dental radiographs (x-rays) are often taken in order to identify problems with teeth that may appear normal on the surface.  Periodontal probing helps to identify disease.  Any concerns are noted on your animal’s dental chart and diseased tissues or teeth addressed.
4. Extractions and Surgical Treatments
Any diseased teeth or tissues identified during the examination and dental x-ray process will be addressed.  This may involve removing teeth that cannot be saved or that are causing your pet problems.
3. Scaling
Plaque and tartar is removed from above and below the gumline.  Cleaning the subgingival tooth (below the gumline) is vital to remove disease-causing bacteria.
4. Polishing
Scaling the teeth creates a slightly rough surface where plaque and calculus can accumulate.  Polishing smooths the tooth surface in order to make the effects of your pet’s dental cleaning last longer.
5. Additional treatments
Your veterinarian will apply a fluoride treatment in order to help keep your pet’s teeth healthy longer.  Other treatments such as the application of a barrier sealant may also be performed if deemed appropriate for your pet.

Most dental procedures are outpatient procedures.  Your veterinarian will provide instructions regarding home dental care and future recommendations. Once you bring your pet home you may be instructed to feed softer food for several days or administer medication for pain or infection at home.  Your pet may be a little groggy from the anesthesia for 24 hours or so, but should be back to normal fairly quickly.  It is natural to be a little nervous about any medical procedure, but understanding the process helps to make it a little less scary.  By allowing dentistry to be performed you can improve the quality and length of your pet’s life.


February is Veterinary Dental Health Month!

Dental care is possibly one of the most overlooked aspects of caring for a pet.  We brush our teeth several times a day, visit the dentist a few times a year, and most of us still end up having an issue or two during our lifetime.  Pets are no different, yet some of them go their entire life without any dental care at all.  According to a study done by the American Veterinary Dental Association 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of dental disease by the age of three!

Bacteria combine with saliva and food on the teeth and gums, causing plaque to form.  Eventually this becomes a hard substance called tartar.  The accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth can lead to inflammation and destruction of the tissues that support the teeth, resulting in periodontal disease.  Untreated this can lead to oral pain as well as the eventual loss of teeth.  Perhaps even more devastating is the damage that can be caused to other organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys secondary to inflammation and infection.

Signs of oral disease include bad breath, changes in eating habits, and pawing at the face.  Some pets never show signs of a problem until it is too late, however.  Wellness checkups are the most effective means of detecting problems early and resolving them before permanent damage results. Make sure to ask your vet if it’s time for a dental check-up. Your pet will be glad you did!