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Caring for Those Pearly Whites: Pet Dental Care Tips

by: by Dr. Heather Lineaweaver, Humane Veterinary Hospitals Lancaster

Apr 30, 2019

People brush, floss and receive regular dental cleanings to maintain healthy teeth and gums and to prevent tooth loss. Preventative dental care is just as important for our pets. Without appropriate care, plaque and bacteria will build up on the teeth and above the gum line. Over time, this plaque will harden into calculus (tartar). As the calculus becomes thicker, it will start to cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), and they will start to recede and pull away from the teeth. This allows bacteria and debris to move further above the gum line.

As periodontal disease progresses, the teeth can loosen and abscesses can develop. Chronic disease can even lead to weakening of the surrounding bone, making the jaw more prone to fractures. Periodontal disease is painful for pets and can interfere with eating, but the associated bacteria can also cause problems. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect internal organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Taking care of our pets’ teeth will help them live longer, healthier, happier lives.

So Fresh & So Clean

Regular brushing is the best way to maintain a healthy mouth. Daily brushing is ideal, but even doing it a few times a week is better than nothing. With dogs and cats, only the outer surfaces of the teeth need to be brushed, which makes it a little easier.

There are multiple types of brushes available, including one that slips over the finger. Only toothpaste specifically formulated for pets should be used. When first starting out, using only your finger to rub along the teeth and gums can help your pet get used to the feeling of have their teeth brushed. Starting when your pet is young also helps. There are treats designed to help prevent plaque build-up, but they should be used as a supplement to brushing rather than replacing it. Bones and hard chew toys for dogs should be avoided, as they can cause tooth fractures.

Regular Check Ups

A yearly physical exam is also very important to assess your pet’s dental and overall health. Your veterinarian will check the teeth, discuss any issues, and determine whether your pet will need a professional cleaning under anesthesia.

Some pets may need a cleaning every year or two, others only once or twice in their lifetime. Genetics play a role in dental health, so even with appropriate care, some pets will need more frequent professional cleanings.

It is never too late to get started with a dental hygiene regimen for your pet. Our veterinarians are happy to provide you with insights and additional guidance. Contact us today to schedule a visit.

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