Just like people, taking care of your pet’s teeth is essential for their comfort, happiness and long-term health. This month we review the importance and procedures to keep your pet’s teeth healthy.

Importance of Healthy Teeth and Gums
While the health of a pet is often viewed by their energy/activity level or desire to eat/drink, an important indicator is also the condition of their teeth and gums.


White Healthy Pet Teeth

Healthy teeth are not just important for playing, defense and pain-free eating (they are!), but they are also essential to your pet’s overall health given the intersection between the teeth and gums are common entry points for bacteria and subsequent infections throughout the body — including the respiratory, digestive, circulatory and immune systems.

So, it’s vital to look weekly (or at least monthly) for red, swollen or receding gums as well as chipped, broken or even loose teeth. These are clear signs of dental, gingivitis or periodontal disease — a situation that should be immediately addressed before more severe health consequences occur. An important leading indicator might be a pet with consistent bad breath, or pets with yellow or excessive tartar on their teeth.

Plaque and Tartar
Plaque is a film of bacteria made up of food particles and saliva that collects on teeth every day that can lead to cavities, periodontal disease and gingivitis. Tartar is the hardening and layering of plaque over time and is often seen as a yellow substance on teeth. Tarter pushes your pet’s gums away from their teeth resulting in red or swollen gums. This swelling allows food and bacteria to enter your pet’s body between the teeth and gums.


Stages of Pet Dental Disease

Over time, the build-up of plaque and tartar leads to tooth bone atrophy and receding gums creating larger gaps for food, bacteria and other health threats to more easily enter your pet’s body and produce tooth decay.

Cleaning Your Pet’s Teeth
We strongly recommend daily or weekly cleaning of your pet’s teeth using a finger toothbrush and flavored toothpaste. Always use care when brushing your pet’s teeth and never use a toothbrush or toothpaste designed for humans as they contain abrasives and chemicals that should not be swallowed.

Before starting, examine your pet’s teeth and gums looking for any cracks, chips or potential sensitivities. Then start slowly in the front, move to the upper back and then lower back —  and then work your way forward. Once complete, repeat the process on the other side. Allow your pet to lick the toothpaste and give your pet a “break” between sides. Give them hugs and encouragement. While few pets enjoy having their teeth cleaned, greater frequency will result in faster and more effective cleanings.


Pet Tooth Cleaning Brushes

Rawhide, chew toys and cleaning biscuits can also be effective cleaning tools. Depending upon your pet’s current dental health, this approach can be moderately successful. Please contact us if you would like a list of chews, toys or biscuits we recommend.

When to Consider a Professional Cleaning
As pets approach their “mid-years” (5 to 7), most are due for a professional teeth cleaning to remove the tartar buildup that has naturally occurred over their lifetime. The timeframe is very much influenced by “their” oral hygiene practices and their diet, with harder or dry pet food acting as a cleaning abrasive often extending the professional cleaning interval — and softer/canned/table food resulting in more frequent cleaning. Of course, daily or weekly teeth brushing can help remove the plaque that creates the tartar which leads to tooth and gum disease.