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Jan 24 2019

February is Dental Health Month!


Join the Fight for Pearly Whites

Dr. Christine Nawas BScH, DVM


“There is nothing better than cuddling up with my fur-kid after a long day of work and a cold drive home…but wait…what’s that smell? Ugghh is that your breath?! Gross!”

If this sounds familiar to you then your pet is likely suffering from dental disease. Oral disease in our pets is the MOST COMMON illness that will impact them throughout their lives. Dental disease is not only unsightly, it also causes pain and disease throughout our pet’s entire bodies as well.

Common signs of dental disease in our pets include:

  • Bad Breath (aka: doggie breath or kitty tuna breath) 
  • Red gums
  • Discolored teeth
  • Trouble eating or chewing on one or both sides of the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth or rubbing the face on objects/people
  • Broken teeth
  • Decreased energy/less likely to play with oral objects (ball, chew toy, frisbee, etc)


And the MOST common sign of oral disease in our pets is: NOTHING!

That’s right! Often our pets don’t show us any signs of dental disease until something is so painful or so infected that they can no longer hide their discomfort. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to have your pet in once per year (or every 6 months if they are over the age of 7 years) to continue to monitor for subtle signs of dental disease and oral discomfort BEFORE they become a major issue.

What we can see as far as signs of oral disease in our pets is often just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the time the real disease process is occurring hidden from our sight under the gumline. This can include broken roots, tooth root abscesses and infections and tooth root resorption disease. These conditions are painful and often go unnoticed as the crown of the tooth can look perfectly healthy. Here is an example of a tooth that looks a bit dirty but pretty good outwardly that has severe disease under the gumline (painful abscess) which can only be seen by taking an x ray:

Smelly breath is just a small part of how oral and periodontal disease can affect your pet. Having a painful mouth with infection can cause many other health issues for your fur-kid! Some of the conditions that have been linked to, or made worse by, dental disease include


  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease and coughing
  • Joint infections
  • Kidney and liver infections
  • Nasal infections
  • Eye infections
  • Behavior changes/aggression
  • Gastrointestinal disease


So, with all of the risks of having dental disease, the big question is “how can you prevent this for your pet”? The good news is that there are several things you can do to treat and prevent oral disease for your animals. Here are a few suggestions:

    • Having your pet in for a professional assessment under light anesthetic, including dental x-rays, is THE MOST important thing that you can do to help your pet. This allows us to know EXACTLY what is going on in your pets mouth, clean their teeth, and extract any teeth that can’t be saved that would be contributing to disease

  • Without doing full dental x rays we can not say that we know that your pet’s teeth are healthy. We often find disease on x rays that is not apparent on the outward exam and probing of your pet’s teeth.


**DENTAL CLEANING WITHOUT ANESTHETIC IS NOT SAFE! There are people out there, who are NOT Veterinarians or Registered Veterinary Technicians, who claim that they can scale your pet’s teeth without needing anesthetic. Not only is this dangerous as sharp tools are being used in your pet’s mouth while they are awake, it does not allow for cleaning under the gumline and it does not allow us to do x rays to properly help your pet!**


    • Brushing your pet’s teeth is the #1 way to keep plaque and tartar away once their teeth have been professionally cleaned. You should brush your pet’s teeth daily with a special toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste for pets approved by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Counsel)
    • Brushing is an excellent step, but it will not remove caked on tartar that is already on the teeth. Once tartar is laid down they will need a dental cleaning first, and then you can continue with brushing


  • BRUSH THEIR TEETH WITH FOOD/TREATS (as a side note…don’t you wish we had this for humans?!)
    • The next most effective option to keep on top of your pet’s oral health are the diet and treat options out there to clean their teeth while they eat/chew! There are several very effective diets out there to help with this, but it’s very important that they be made by a trusted company who has put the research into them. We would recommend either Hill’s T/D or Royal Canin Dental.

  • Products such as Dentabones and Dentastix can be effective, but the MOST effective products are ones that have been approved by the VOHC. Ask your veterinarian about these products today.


**ANTLERS, HOOVES, AND BONES ARE NOT SAFE!!! These products are notorious for breaking teeth in our pets! These broken teeth then need to be surgically extracted or a root canal must be performed to save the tooth. With so many SAFE and EFFECTIVE options out there it’s not worth it to give these to your pet!!**


    • If your pet will not tolerate tooth brushing there are other products that can be useful to help their oral health.
    • Dental wipes and water additives are another way to help to keep your pet’s mouth clean and are to be used daily.

If you feel that your pet may be in need of some dental care, or if you aren’t sure and want to find out, please make an appointment to bring them in so that we can assess them. Together we can make a treatment plan to keep their oral health a priority. This is one major step to improve their overall well-being and a way in which we can keep them healthy and happy for many years to come.

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