Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats  

Dental disease in dogs and cats can be a serious problem.  

As in people, plaque build-up on dog and cat teeth leads to red, irritated gums, a condition called gingivitis.  Plaque begins as a film of food particles and bacteria that can harden over time into a dark, rock-like scale.  Bacteria invade the gap between the gum and the tooth, causing inflammation.  Bacteria under the gum line secrete toxins, which contribute to the tissue damage. Over time, bacteria can destroy the bone that holds the tooth in place, leading to tooth loss or the need for extraction.  On occasion, bacteria can even invade the bloodstream, leading to infections in other organs such as the heart and kidneys which can have long-term adverse health implications.

Unfortunately, quite a bit of damage due to dental disease can occur before you notice anything.  Pets with early gum disease generally don’t show any signs at all, except for a little bad breath.  As the problem progresses, the gums can become very red and sore, and your pet may not want to chew hard food. The bad breath gets progressively worse, and pets with severe dental disease can have very foul mouth odours. Just like us, our pets need regular dental check-ups to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Lifting the lips along the sides of the mouth can reveal dark-coloured plaque or a line of reddish inflammation where the teeth meet the gums. Because a thorough dental examination and cleaning in pets requires general anaesthesia, your vet may also recommend blood work ahead of time to make sure your pet is a good candidate for the procedure.

Professional Dental Scaling In A Cat  

Fortunately, you can do quite a bit to prevent dental problems before they start. The single most effective method of oral hygiene is to brush your pet’s teeth daily with toothpaste specifically developed for pets.  Do not use human toothpaste because, due to its abrasives and foaming agents, it is not meant to be swallowed. Toothbrushes designed for dogs are soft and angled to assist in brushing the back teeth. Some dogs prefer finger brushes. Your vet can show you how to brush and maintain your pet’s teeth as part of an overall dental health program.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth  

Feeding your pet a balanced diet of dry food helps to limit plaque build-up.  Chew toys and nylon bones are another good way to stimulate gums and scrape away plaque, and many toys that have been specifically designed for dental care are available.


Several “dental diets” have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease. Some employ a specific kibble design and others include a chemical anti-tartar poly-phosphate ingredient.

The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance is awarded to home oral hygiene products that meet or exceed the VOHC standard for retarding accumulation of dental plaque or dental tartar. Hills prescription diet canine and feline t/d have received the VOHC Seal of Acceptance.

Rawhide products and chew treats can be helpful if chewed daily, and some rawhide chews and biscuits contain an anti-tartar ingredient. Canine and feline Greenies also have received the VOHC Seal of Acceptance.

Dogs Are Carnivores

They chew on bones in the wild. However, American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend cow hooves, dried natural bones or hard nylon products because they are too hard and do not mimic the effect of a dog tearing meat off a carcass. These hard products are associated with broken teeth or damaged gums. Chew toys are only of benefit if they are played with frequently and over the long haul – you can increase the dog’s willingness to chew by smearing palatable peanut butter or soft cheese on the product.

Pet dogs should be monitored while chewing a chew treat or toy, as they may swallow large pieces, leading to a variety of digestive system disorders.

These are several home care oral hygiene options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation will pay big dividends. What really matters is whether or not home oral hygiene will be provided over the long haul – considerable effort applied only for a short period or only occasionally will be of no long-term benefit.

Action Should Be Taken Well Before Your Pet’s Teeth Look Like This:

Stage 4 Periodontal Disease In A Dog  

Home oral hygiene can improve the periodontal health of the patient, decrease the progression of the disease and decrease the frequency of or eliminate the need for professional dental cleaning. Implementing home oral hygiene at a young age can help the pet accept life-long oral care. Be cautious about miracle remedies advertised on the internet or sold in pet stores. Many of these are unproven and may be worthless – like many other things in life, when something seems too good to be true, it usually is. When properly cared for, teeth can remain in healthy condition in the mouth, and the risk of associated health complications can be reduced.

Dr IG Southern | Vet Express

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