Signs and Risks of Dental Problems in Dogs and Cats

dog and cat dental.

No one likes dog breath, and tuna breath isn’t so great either. Dental disease is a real problem for our pets. South Seminole Animal Hospital wants to be sure that you understand dental care for dogs and cats so that you can enjoy them, breath and all. 

Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats

It would never be okay for a person to not brush their teeth or visit a dentist, yet some pets go their entire life without any dental care at all. According to the American Veterinary Dental Association, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of dental disease by the age of three. Don’t forget about this important part of pet wellness care!

Bacteria combine with saliva and food on the teeth and gums, which causes plaque to form. This plaque eventually forms a hard substance called tartar. The accumulation of plaque and tartar can lead to inflammation and destruction of the tissues that support the teeth, which results in periodontal disease. 

Untreated, periodontal disease leads to pain and infection, as well as the eventual tooth loss in dogs and cats. The resulting inflammation and infection can cause damage to other organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys. 

Home Dental Care for Pets

​​Pet dental care at home is a valuable tool. It can prevent and slow progression of dental disease. It also allows you to become more familiar with your pet and any emerging health issues. 

The most effective home dental care task is to brush your pet’s teeth. This should be done on a daily basis.

To brush your pet’s teeth:

  • Introduce your pet to tooth brushing slowly using lots of praise. You might start by introducing your finger into the mouth for short sessions. Try dipping it in something tasty like broth or tuna
  • Keep toothbrushing sessions short and positive
  • Once your pet tolerates your finger in the mouth, try to slowly introduce a soft, wet toothbrush or fingerbrush
  • Once your pet tolerates brushing, you can introduce veterinary toothpaste that contains enzymes to help break up plaque (never use human toothpaste)

Don’t force the issue, though. Some pets just do not allow their teeth to be brushed. If your pet becomes irritated or aggressive, don’t push it. 

Alternatively, there are certain treats and foods that have been shown to help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Reference the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s approved product list for more information. 

Veterinary Dental Care is Key

Pets require comprehensive dental examination and cleanings periodically throughout their life. Similar to people, professional dental care is needed even if good home care is practiced.

Thorough dental examinations and cleanings must be performed under general anesthesia so that the oral cavity can be thoroughly examined. After a detailed examination, the teeth are scaled on all surfaces (and under the gumline) to remove plaque and tartar buildup. They are then polished and a fluoride treatment applied.

During these anesthetized procedures, tooth extractions for cats and dogs or other types of pet oral surgery may be recommended. Rest assured that our professional staff will discuss these recommendations with you should your pet need more advanced dental work. 

Dental health care is truly one of the most important parts of caring for your pet. Untreated, dental disease is painful and can significantly shorten your pet’s lifespan. By having routine oral examinations and dental care as recommended and providing home care where possible, you are significantly improving your pet’s quality and quantity of life.