Many pet owners are shocked when they learn that their pets have dental disease, or other oral problems. But, since most of us don’t regularly examine the inside of our pet’s mouth, and most dogs and cats continue to eat, drink, and behave normally despite dental issues, it’s not surprising that owners often aren’t aware of potential problems lurking in their pet’s oral cavity. Since dental problems are some of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in pets, being aware of your pet’s dental health is essential. Here are some of our top dental facts that all pet owners should know.

Your pet’s breath shouldn’t smell bad

We’ve come to think of bad breath as a normal part of being a dog or cat, but the fact is, our furry friends shouldn’t be stinky—especially from their mouths. Bad breath (i.e., halitosis) is a hallmark sign that something funky is going on in the oral cavity. For most pets, halitosis is caused by an overproduction of plaque and tartar-causing bacteria, gum disease, or tooth root abscesses. If you consider how your breath smells after skipping a toothbrushing, imagine how bad the smell would be after months, or years, without this basic practice. Not surprisingly, the same goes for our furry friends, who need our help to keep their mouths fresh and disease-free. 

Dental disease is more than plaque and tartar

If you’ve ever neglected your oral health for a day or two, you may have noticed a slight buildup on the tooth surface. This biofilm is caused by the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. As these bacteria multiply, because of poor oral hygiene, the biofilm thickens to form plaque, which thickens further to form calcified tartar. Tartar then accumulates underneath the gum line, leading to painful gum inflammation (i.e., gingivitis), which can progress and cause tooth root infection, bone loss, or pathologic jaw fractures. In pets, dental disease can range from mild plaque and tartar to severe gingivitis and infection. Not only is this condition unpleasant for dogs and cats, but dental disease can also lead to permanent tooth loss and, if left untreated for long enough, could cause long-term damage to other body areas, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. 

Pets suffer from other dental problems, too

While dental disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is by far the most common oral condition in pets, other problems can also occur. Brachycephalic (i.e., flat-nosed) breeds are prone to tooth crowding, whereas larger-breed dogs are subject to tooth fractures. Our feline friends may suffer from a painful inflammatory condition of the oral soft tissues, known as stomatitis. Resorptive lesions, which occur when the tooth’s protective dentin layer erodes, are also common in cats, requiring tooth extraction. Without routine veterinary care, many of these problems go unnoticed in our pets, and is another reason why wellness exams are so important for our four-legged friends. 

Most pets need an anesthetic dental cleaning by age 2

If left untreated, periodontal disease naturally progresses as our pets age. But, did you know that approximately two-thirds of dogs and cats have dental disease signs as early as age 2 or 3? This means that many pets need a professional cleaning by their first birthday, to prevent disease. The most effective and efficient way to get your pet’s teeth squeaky clean and disease-free is with an anesthetic dental cleaning with the veterinary team at Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital. Anesthesia is necessary to ensure the safety of your pet, as well as a thorough cleaning underneath the gum line, where dental disease often lurks. Plan to bring your pet in about once a year for this essential procedure. 

Toothbrushing is recommended for dogs and cats

If you’re wondering about the best way to keep your pet’s mouth fresh and clean between professional cleanings, you may be surprised to learn that toothbrushing is the way to go. 

While this may sound impossible, with diligence and patience, most pets can be trained to tolerate toothbrushing. Our advice? Begin this practice with your pets as early as possible and start slowly, realizing that you’re likely not going to manage a full brushing session on day one. Fortunately, for particularly unruly dogs and cats, alternative methods and products, such as oral rinses, wipes, and water additives, are available to minimize bacterial buildup in the mouth. 

At Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital, we are here for all your pet’s dental needs. Whether you need to schedule a consultation or professional cleaning, or need advice on an at-home oral hygiene regimen, contact our team today.