Pets Need Dental Care, too!

The dental proverb, "Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you", is true not only for humans, but for pets as well. Unfortunately, false teeth for dogs and cats aren't an option.

As a pet owner, you make many decisions for your pet's health. Please do not overlook the need for your pet's dental health.  Bad breath, red gums, broken teeth, difficulty eating and dental tartar are all indications of a serious problem. Ignoring these warning signs will result in the spreading of infection with the loss of teeth.


Left untreated dental disease can be life-threatening. Bacteria from tooth decay and gum disease can work their way into your pet's bloodstream and produce infection in the heart, lungs, and other parts of the body.

Plaque, Gingivitis and Periodontitis

  1. Veterinarians estimate that about 75 percent of all dogs and cats over three years old suffer some tooth decay and gum disease. These progressive changes need to be interrupted with early detection and proper prophylactic teeth cleaning. 
  2. Saliva and food particles provide an excellent environment for bacteria to multiply along the margins of the gums.  Plaque is an accumulation of old cells, saliva, and bacteria. Left on the teeth, plaque hardens and turns into tartar.
  3. As the bacteria multiply, the enzymes produced begin to damage the gums causing them to recede. Gingivitis describes the red inflamed gums that resulting from the presence of the tartar. 
  4. Periodontitis is often a permanent and damaging change to the structure of the mouth. The receding gum tissue exposes the underlying bony sockets to the same bacteria. Ligaments that connect teeth with bone and gum tissue break down resulting in tooth loss.

Veterinary Treatment of Periodontal Disease

The Westgate Pet Clinic and Park Pet Hospital use an ultrasonic dental instrument to clean the teeth. A stream of water strikes a vibrating tip to wash the plaque away. With our special perio-probe tip, hand scaling instruments are not needed as frequently to remove plaque below the gum line.

A second dental polishing attachment, similar to human dental polishing, smoothes the enamel surface to help prevent accumulation of new plaque. A protective fluoride treatment further protects the enamel.

A general anesthetic is necessary for dental cleaning and dental surgery. This anesthetic has a short duration of effect and most pets will return home the same day. Depending on your pet's age and general health status, various blood tests are recommended prior to anesthesia to evaluate blood cell counts and major organ function. To learn more about the many ways we make anesthesia procedures safe, see FAQ Anesthesia Safety.

Home Prevention of Periodontal Disease

Brushing your pet's teeth daily is the single most important factor in the prevention of pet dental disease. Teaching older pets to tolerate brushing is difficult, so start at a young age! There are many new flavors of toothpaste your pet may learn to enjoy if given the chance. Concentrate on brushing where plaque begins, over the upper fangs and the big crushing teeth in the back of the upper mouth called the carnassials.

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth: a video demonstration of how to successfully brush your cat's teeth by instituting a 4-week program that includes positive associations with a favorite treat.

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth: a video discussion about the importance of daily brushing and a demonstration of brushing.

Not long ago, feeding a dry pet food was thought to benefit dental hygiene. Since 75% struggle with dental disease, a better solution was needed.

Today veterinarians offer a special food called Prescription Diet T/D for dogs and cats. The food contains fibers that literally scrape the plaque off of the teeth without damaging the enamel. By removing plaque as it forms, tartar formation is greatly diminished. For pets with serious dental disease, or pets that won't tolerate daily brushing, this food is an easy alternative as a regular diet or as a frequent treat. Did I mention that it tastes great!

"CET Chews for Dogs" are rawhide impregnated with toothpaste. Regular rawhide is also beneficial. Always use rawhide in moderate amounts under supervision since large amounts can become lodged in the intestinal tract. "CET Chews for Cats" are a tubular gritty treat that have a fantastic fish flavor.

Bones purchased from the local butcher are not recommended because of their many inherent dangers. Round bones are often purchased because of their marrow filling. Marrow has a high fat content which dogs love but can result in sudden and severe vomiting from a disease called pancreatitis. Round bones can also get locked around your pet's lower jaw resulting in a frightening experience. Rib bones and chicken bones are dangerous because they splinter and result in extremely sharp edges. all bones cause intestinal blockage when swallowed.