Are teeth important to the health of your pet?
Dogs and cats need dental care, too!
Unfortunately, dental hygiene for our pets is sometimes overlooked. It is estimated that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats that do not receive proper dental care may show signs of dental disease by the age of 3. Many people seem to just expect dogs and cats to have bad breath, and few people brush their dog or cat’s teeth frequently enough. Dental hygiene is just as important to your pet’s overall health as things like nutrition, proper exercise, and routine grooming.
At Cedar Way Veterinary Clinic, we recommend regular dental cleanings to help care for the health of your pet’s teeth. These cleanings involve anesthetizing your pet to do a thorough cleaning, scaling, and polishing of their teeth, as well as the removal of diseased teeth. We also use digital dental x-rays to see what is going on beneath the gum line.
Below you can find more topics about dental disease and how to care for your pet’s teeth.
Key Dental X-Ray Facts
Dental radiographs are now part of our dental core procedures.
Dental x-ray is an essential tool in diagnosing and treating oral conditions in your pet as 60% of the tooth lies under the gums and must be evaluated with dental x-rays. X-rays allow assessment of the tooth, root, bone, and adjacent structures (teeth, nasal cavity, sinus, blood vessels/nerves). A digital dental x-ray system is used for superior image quality, reducing radiation exposure to the patient.
Dogs have 42 teeth, and cats have 30 teeth. Usually, 8 to 15 x-ray images are obtained to access oral condition effectively. X-rays will allow us to discover possibly:
- Extra root or an abscess that has extended to an adjacent/normal looking tooth.
- Unerupted or impacted teeth, which can lead to a bone cyst.
- Teeth that must be extracted must be evaluated for root fractures or root ankylosis (fusion to the bone).
- Cats are prone to “cavities” or resorptive lesions. Some lesions are located under the gums and are only visible on x-rays. Treatment is based on the evaluation of root structure, where intact roots must be extracted, while resorbing roots can be retained.
- Oral growths (cyst, infection, or tumor) require x-ray assessment for treatment or biopsy.
Bad Breath? This Could Be a Sign Your Dog is in Trouble
Dog breath can be pretty unpleasant for you, but did you know that it can also be a sign of trouble in dogs? It’s true. Dog breath could be a signal of a significant health danger in dogs. It is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar along the gum line, leading to painful tooth loss and gum issues.
Dog dental health is a real problem. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that about 80 percent of dogs already have signs of dental problems by the young age of two — and those dental problems can spark system-wide health problems if they are not remedied.
Much like the human mouth, bacteria colonize to form the film on teeth known as plaque. When plaque comes into contact with the minerals that naturally exist in saliva, tartar forms — and tartar is too hard and firmly attached to the teeth to be brushed away. Dogs’ mouths are even more alkaline than ours, and that promotes more plaque and tartar formation. This leads to the proliferation of bacteria since most dogs don’t have their teeth brushed every day.
Plaque and tartar buildup is the number one cause of periodontal problems, and periodontal problems can lead to diseases affecting organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Is your dog at risk?
Don’t take chances with your dog’s good health. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. Start your dog or cat at an early age. Human toothpaste is meant to be spit out, dog and cat toothpaste are meant to be swallowed. There are beef and poultry flavored kinds of toothpaste available.
It’s essential to take your dog to the vet for regular dental cleanings before severe problems start and teeth are extracted. Another good way to help significantly reduce plaque is to give your dog an excellent dental health chew. Definitely not as effective as brushing, but it will help. Chewing on good dental health chew provides abrasion against the tooth, removing plaque and tartar. It’s an easy way and a somewhat helpful way to fight plaque and tartar buildup while keeping your dog’s breath fresh and clean.
How to Brush Your Pet's Teeth
How to brush your pet’s teeth like in humans, dental care is an integral part of your pet’s overall health. Here’s a step-by-step guide to keeping those chompers sparkling white at home.
- Start brushing your pet’s teeth early—8 to 12 weeks old is best. If you brush every day, your pet will become familiar with the routine when their permanent teeth erupt. Please note: You may need to stop brushing while your pet loses their baby teeth. Their mouth will be a bit sore, and handling may cause more pain. Continue once all permanent teeth come in.
- Work with your pet’s mouth. Be patient and make it fun. Use love and praise, and try to practice at the same time each day to establish a routine. Choose a quiet time, such as late in the evening. Or, if your pet is highly motivated by food, try just before dinner so she’ll be rewarded for their cooperation.
- Handle your pet’s muzzle and touch their lips. Work up to rubbing the teeth and gums with your finger. Put a few drops of water flavored with low-sodium chicken or beef bouillon for dogs and tuna juice for cats in your pet’s mouth, and she’ll begin to look forward to these sessions.
- Rub the teeth gently with a bouillon- or tuna- flavored washcloth or a piece of gauze wrapped around the end of your finger.
- Finally, use a finger brush or a soft veterinary or human toothbrush to brush the teeth using the bouillon water or tuna juice. Hold the brush at a 45- degree angle to the tooth and brush gently back and forth or in a circular pattern from gum to tip. Brushing the tongue side of the teeth is less critical but still good. Of- for rewards and treats when your pet allows you to brush.
- Consider other dental aids. A large selection of veterinary toothpaste, oral rinses, and gels are available to you. Our veterinary team can help you select the right one for you and your pet. These products all enhance your home care program, but daily brushing is best. Avoid human toothpaste because fluoride and detergents can be harmful if swallowed. Hydrogen peroxide can be harsh on the gums and shouldn’t be swallowed either. Baking soda has a high sodium content and should be avoided in older pets.
- Pick kibble and rubber chew toys that will help keep the teeth clean. Avoid natural bones, which are hard enough to fracture teeth. Our veterinary team can recommend a complete and balanced professional diet to use at feeding time and as a treat.
Click here to watch a video demonstration of brushing your pet’s teeth.
Products to Help with Tartar Control
The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of recommended products to help reduce plaque and tartar on the teeth of animals. We have listed out the products we have found the most useful.
The following products have the VOHC seal in the ‘helps control plaque and helps control tartar’ category:
• Hill’s Canine t/d Original and Small Bites
• Hill’s Feline t/d
• Hill’s Prescription Diet Feline t/d (New and Improved)
• Science Diet Oral Care Diet for Dogs and Cats
• Purina Veterinary DH Dental Health brand Feline Formula
• Canine Greenies all sizes (including Veterinary Formula)
• Canine Greenies Lite all sizes
• Canine Greenies Senior all sizes
• HealthiDent, Bright Bites, and Checkups chews for Dogs all sizes
• SANOS Dental Sealant
The following products have received VOHC approval in the ‘helps control tartar’ category:
• Friskies Cheweez Beefhide Treats
• Iams Chunk Dental Defense Diet for Dogs
• Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet for Dogs
• Purina Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health brand Canine Formula
• Purina Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health brand Small Bites Canine Formula
• Purina Veterinary Diets Dental Chews Brand Canine Treats
• Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews for Dogs
• Feline Greenies Dental Treats
The following products have received VOHC approval in the ‘helps control plaque’ category:
• ESSENTIAL Healthymouth anit-plaque water additive (dog and cat)
• ESSENTIAL Healthymouth anti-plaque gel (dog and cat)
• ESSENTIAL Healthymouth anti-plaque oral spray (dog and cat)
• ESSENTIAL Healthymouth anti-plaque water additive
-Mobility Formulation for dogs
• Petsmile by Supersmile toothpaste
Remember that there is no perfect chew toy for your pet. Supervision should be provided whenever your pet is given chew toys. A good rule to follow is that your dog should never chew on anything harder than its teeth. Nylon bones, natural bones, pig ears, cow hooves, and ice cubes may lead to fractured teeth. Kong toys are firm rubber toys that are compressible and provide good chewing activity for your dog.
In kittens and puppies, the deciduous teeth begin to erupt at about 3-4 weeks of age and the permanent teeth begin to emerge at about 3-4 months of age.
By 24 weeks of age, usually all of the permanent teeth have emerged.
Puppies have 28 teeth and adult dogs normally have 42 teeth.
Kittens normally have 26 teeth and adult cats have 30 teeth.