Keeping your pet’s teeth in tip-top shape can be a tough challenge, especially when your furry pal isn’t fond of toothbrushes. However, attending to your pet’s oral health is essential for their overall health and well-being, as dental disease can create serious systemic illness. Up to 85% of pets age 3 and older have some form of dental disease that, left untreated, can cause painful gingivitis, tooth and bone loss, and heart disease. To help your four-legged friend keep their teeth and mouth healthy, above and below the gumline, you must take three important steps—learn to identify dental disease, implement an at-home dental care plan, and ask your Homestead Animal Hospital team for help. 

How to spot dental disease in your pet

Dental disease can be difficult to detect in pets, as few cats and dogs complain about sore gums or a painful tooth. But, with frequent oral health checks at home, you can closely monitor your furry pal for dental disease. Common signs include:

  • Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Brown, yellow, or grey plaque and tartar accumulation on teeth
  • Cracked, worn, loose, or missing teeth
  • Gum recession
  • Reluctance to chew on toys or dry food
  • Pawing at one side of the mouth
  • Whimpering or whining when chewing

Occasionally, pets with severe dental disease can develop a tooth-root abscess, which commonly appears at the carnassial tooth, or large upper fourth premolar. If this situation occurs, your pet may develop a lump, or abscess, under their eye on their muzzle. Your pet can also suffer with an abscess if they fracture a tooth chewing on an inappropriate item. 

At the first hint of dental disease in your pet—bad breath, gingivitis, or tartar accumulation—contact our team for help, because by then the oral bacteria have traveled under the gumline and can begin invading the rest of their body.  

How to help support your pet’s dental health at home

Your pet’s dental health is best managed through a two-pronged attack—at-home care and professional care. You wouldn’t visit your dentist twice per year without brushing your teeth daily, right? The same goes for your pet. When caring for your pet’s oral health at home, be aware of the following:

  • Toothbrushing — The gold standard of at-home dental care for pets is twice daily toothbrushing. For the most success, use a pet-friendly toothpaste that is flavored and fluoride-free, and a smaller brush designed to fit into your pet’s mouth. 
  • Approved dental products — Not all dental health products are created equal, and some fail to back up their claims of promoting oral health. To choose the most effective dental products, like VeggieDent chews and Hill’s t/d, for battling periodontal disease, search for products that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s (VOHC) seal of approval. The VOHC approves only dental products with proven ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation.
  • Routine oral health checks — Keeping a close eye on your pet’s oral health will help warn you when professional help is needed.

How your veterinarian helps support your pet’s dental health

Despite your strict at-home toothbrushing and flossing regimen, you still visit your dentist for a thorough cleaning and dental X-rays. Your pet benefits from the same routine. When your pet comes to our hospital for dental care, they’ll receive a thorough oral exam, dental X-rays, scaling, polishing, and protective treatment while under general anesthesia. We use a tailored anesthetic protocol to ensure your pet feels no pain or anxiety during their procedure, and to keep them motionless while we take perfect dental X-rays to check for hidden disease. 

During your pet’s cleaning, we use hand tools and an ultrasonic scaler to remove every trace of plaque and tartar from their teeth above and below the gumline. As much as 60% of each tooth lies below the gumline, so reaching those areas with regular toothbrushing is impossible. With our specialized tools, we can eradicate the source of oral bacteria. Next, we polish away irregularities in the tooth enamel, and then finish with a protective fluoride treatment. If your furry pal has any periodontal problems, we can remedy the issue while we are cleaning. Some pets require more frequent dental cleanings than others, often because of genetics and poor dentition, but all pets benefit from routine dental cleanings.

If your furry pal’s breath is knocking you out, it may be a sign of dental disease and a clue that your pet requires veterinary help. Contact your Homestead Animal Hospital team to schedule an appointment for a thorough oral exam and dental cleaning. And, when you call, don’t forget to mention our February specials to celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month.