If your pet’s breath could practically knock you over, she probably has some serious dental disease going on. That’s right: Stinky doggy (or kitty) breath is not considered normal, and it’s usually the first sign that your furry friend has a periodontal problem. That nasty breath can indicate plaque and tartar are building up, which can lead to loose and damaged teeth, chronic oral pain, bone loss, and infection. About 80 percent of pets over the age of three have some level of dental disease. Don’t let your pet become a statistic. Here are five tips to help you battle dental disease:


1. Get in the habit of peeking in your pet’s mouth. Nobody knows your pet quite as well as you do. Pinpointing the day you detected bad breath or a variation in your pet’s eating habits can be a challenge, since you see your companion every day. Set aside time to examine your pet’s mouth weekly, if not more frequently. Look for discolored or jagged teeth, accumulation of brown or yellow material on the teeth, red or inflamed gums, bleeding, or spots that are tender to the touch.

2. Investigate dental care products. Not all pet dental products are created equal. Many declare to battle bad breath and crack down on tartar, but most are unable to back up those claims. Instead of purchasing random dental treats and chews, choose products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to reduce plaque and tartar buildup, such as:

  • Chews
  • Treats
  • Diets
  • Water additives
  • Oral gels
  • Mouth sprays
  • Dental wipes
  • Toothbrushes
  • Toothpastes
  • Dental sealants


3. Schedule a professional oral exam and cleaning. Even if you regularly take a look at the inside of your pet’s mouth, there’s no substitution for a professional oral exam and cleaning by our veterinary health care team. During our exam, we’ll be able to get an idea of the severity of your pet’s dental disease, and we’ll pick up on any other potential problems going on inside the mouth. To thoroughly examine your pet’s oral health, we’ll take X-rays so we can see what’s happening beneath the gum line, where most of the teeth live and where bacteria can flourish. To obtain X-rays and thoroughly and safely clean your pet’s teeth, we’ll place your pet under anesthesia, which brings us to our next point.


4. Don’t be afraid of anesthesia. Dental procedures for pets require anesthesia. Some places boast anesthesia-free dental cleanings, but those are incomplete, ineffective, and unsafe procedures. Dental X-rays can’t be taken without the use of sedation—no pet is going to lay perfectly still and allow a dental plate in her mouth. And, without anesthesia, cleaning under the gum line cannot occur, where the majority of bacteria lurks. And lastly, if diseased teeth are discovered during our examination, we will have to extract them—something that should not be done without pain relief and sedation. A multi-modal, patient-specific anesthetic protocol is a must to eliminate pain and allow us to safely perform our tasks. Anesthetic drugs and monitoring have come a long way, and even senior pets have no issues handling our advanced anesthesia care. As always, we have our highly trained veterinary team devoting their skills to keeping your pet pain-free, healthy, and safe. Please don’t hesitate to ask us any questions regarding anesthesia and the measures we take to keep your pet safe.


5. Formulate a dental health care plan. Whether your pet appreciates it or not, she requires good dental care. Oral bacteria can wreak havoc throughout the entire body, infecting major organs and leading to painful teeth and bone loss. Preventing plaque from forming is key to avoiding this dangerous disease. To begin with, choose appropriate dental products by referring to tip number two. Avoid toys and chews that are too hard (like antlers and bones), and pick up some items proven to combat dental disease. Next, implement a tooth brushing routine. The keys to brushing your pet’s teeth effectively are to move slowly and reward frequently. In time, your pup will get used to you brushing her teeth, and she might even do a happy dance at the sight of a toothbrush, while your cat will no longer run off to hide. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily is ideal to prevent periodontal disease.


February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Schedule an appointment to help keep your pet’s breath fresh and her pearly whites (and the rest of her body!) healthy.