While a big, slobbery kiss might be your pet’s favorite way of showing affection, you may be revolted when they lean in for a smooch. Particularly foul breath, brown tartar buildup, and inflamed gums do not make for pleasant kisses, nor do they demonstrate a healthy, pain- and infection-free mouth. Many pets suffer from dental disease—which is often first heralded by bad breath—but there are a lot of ways you can keep your furry pal’s mouth clean and healthy.

Join our Town & Country Animal Hospital, PC team as we explain the importance of regular dental care for your furry pal and what you can do to ensure they have kissably fresh breath.

The importance of protecting your pet’s periodontal health

Regular dental care is crucial for your pet for several reasons:

  • Dental disease prevention — Like people, pets can suffer from dental issues such as gingivitis, tooth infections, and periodontal disease. Regular dental care helps prevent these conditions by removing plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to more serious problems if left untreated.
  • Pain prevention — Dental problems can cause pain and discomfort for pets. Regular dental checkups can help detect issues early before they become painful and more difficult to treat.
  • Overall health improvement — Dental problems in pets are not confined to the mouth; they can also affect other organs and systems in the body. Bacteria from dental infections can enter the bloodstream and affect the heart, liver, and kidneys, leading to more severe health issues. 
  • Cost savings — Preventive care is always a cost-effective way of ensuring your pet remains in good health. Regular oral exams and dental cleanings can help catch problems early, potentially saving you—and your pet—from costly dental procedures.

Dental disease signs in pets

Cats and dogs naturally hide signs of pain or illness, so you may not realize your furry pal is suffering from poor dental health until the disease has reached advanced stages. Regularly check your pet’s mouth for oral issues and monitor their behavior for the following dental disease signs:

  • Bad breath — A healthy mouth shouldn’t have much of an odor, so when you notice foul breath coming from your pet, oral bacteria are to blame.
  • Gingivitis — As bacteria attack the mouth, the gum tissue (i.e., gingiva) becomes irritated, inflamed, and swollen. Your pet’s gums may bleed or you may spot blood on chew toys or in the water bowl.
  • Plaque and tartar accumulation — Within a few hours after eating, sticky plaque will form on your pet’s teeth. While it’s typically colorless, it may create a yellowish tinge. Plaque will then mineralize into brown, yellow, or grey tartar within a few days if not removed.
  • Loose or missing teeth — As oral bacteria invade below the gumline, they damage the teeth’s supporting structures, leading to loose or missing teeth.
  • Drooling — Excessive drooling can be a sign of oral pain in pets.
  • Changes in eating habits — Dental problems can cause your pet to become reluctant to eat hard food or treats, drop food while eating, or favor one side of their mouth while chewing.
  • Pawing at the mouth — Pets experiencing dental pain may paw at their mouth or face in an attempt to alleviate discomfort.
  • Behavior changes — If your pet is experiencing oral pain, they may become irritable, withdrawn, or reluctant to be touched.
  • Facial swelling — In some cases, dental abscesses or infections can cause swelling on the face, especially under the eyes or on the jaw.

How to care for your pet’s oral health

Dental care for pets involves a combination of at-home and professional dental care. Here’s a breakdown of how you can care for your pet’s oral health:

  • Brush teeth regularly — Regular toothbrushing is one of the most effective ways to prevent dental issues in pets because brushing two or three times a week can remove plaque before it hardens into tartar. Use pet-friendly toothpaste, as human toothpaste can contain harmful ingredients.
  • Provide approved dental products — Choose dental products that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s seal of acceptance. These chews, treats, food and water additives, and other oral care products have demonstrated their efficacy in thwarting plaque and tartar accumulation.
  • Conduct oral exams — When brushing your pet’s teeth, closely inspect each tooth, the surrounding gingiva, and other oral tissues for any abnormalities. Your Town & Country Animal Hospital, PC veterinarian will also check your furry pal’s mouth as part of their comprehensive physical exam during wellness visits.
  • Schedule dental cleanings — Professional dental cleanings performed under general anesthesia ensure your pet’s safety and comfort while allowing us to be thorough. Full-mouth dental X-rays and a comprehensive evaluation of the entire oral cavity will help us form a treatment plan, in addition to routine scaling and polishing. After a dental cleaning, your pet’s teeth will be a clean, fresh slate, ready for regular toothbrushing and dental care at home.

Caring for your pet’s oral health provides many more benefits than just kissably fresh breath, so give our Town & Country Animal Hospital, PC team a call to schedule a comprehensive oral exam and dental cleaning.