Dog and Cat Dental Care 101: How to Keep Your Pet's Teeth Healthy

Regular dental care and teeth cleanings for dogs and cats may seem like a relatively recent idea. Why weren't we doing this in past decades? Do pets really need to go to the dentist? We get these questions all the time at our veterinary clinic.

Think about it for a moment: How healthy would your teeth be if you never brushed or flossed your entire life? Or even just a few months? It's no different for our pets. That's why regular dental care is essential to keeping your pet happy and healthy.

You might be skeptical wondering "But don't dogs and cats just naturally take care of their own teeth?"

That may have been true before dogs and cats were domesticated. Like humans, plaque builds up on the teeth of dogs and cats. Unlike us, these animals can't brush or floss for themselves. Wild animals have a natural "floss" -- their prey -- that pets now lack. The canned and dried foods we feed to our pets do not provide the same kind of dental cleaning.

How Big is the Problem?

The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. Veterinary medicine has found that dental diseases that affect the teeth, gums, and nearby areas of the mouth are the most common health problems for dogs and cats.

These health problems affect more than the mouth, too. The bacteria in plaque can go into the bloodstream and spread to the heart, kidneys, and liver. (The same is true of humans!) Taking the time for dental cleanings and oral hygiene can prevent bigger problems further down the road.

Signs that your pet may be suffering from dental disease:

  • Bad breath

  • Poor grooming

  • Dropping food from mouth while eating

  • Excessive drooling

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums

  • Facial swelling

  • Pawing at their face

  • Weight loss

  • Loss of appetite

  • Lethargy, inactivity, or depression

  • Teeth becoming loose, falling out, or chipping easily

What Can You Do?

The good news is that with advances in veterinary medicine, taking care of your pet's dental health has never been easier. Here's what you can do:

Brush your pet's teeth daily. Prevention is the best medicine. Getting into the habit may be tricky at first, but our staff would be happy to help you figure out the easiest method. We can provide you with special brushes, toothpaste, and dental tools for pets.

Routine dental checkups and cleanings. The American Animal Hospital Association Dental Care Guidelines recommends oral exams and dental cleaning for all adult dogs and cats. AHAA advises for annual visits for cats and small dogs and every two years for large dogs.

Feed your pet a healthy, balanced diet. Dental chews can help, but many pets chomp these up too fast to really scrub the plaque off. We can help you choose the right foods, treats, and toys for your furry pal's oral hygiene.

Still have questions about doggy and kitty dental care? You're welcome to book your fur baby's next dental checkup with us, or contact us if you have questions about starting a healthy oral hygiene routine for your dog or cat!

Wishing you and your four-legged companions the best,

Dr. Mark Flahaven

© 2020 by Deer Grove Animal Hospital - Veterinarian in Palatine, IL