National Pet Dental Health Month


February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so for many pet owners, it’s time to think about the health of our pet’s teeth, if we haven’t done so already.

Here is information about pet dental health care that the California Veterinary Medical Association put out:

The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) reports gingivitis and periodontal disease in dogs and cats have become widespread, and pet owners should take some simple actions to be sure their pet has good oral health.

“We hope ‘National Pet Dental Health Month’ in February will draw attention to this serious health issue for pets. All pet owners should start a regular dental care routine for their animals in consultation with their veterinarians,” said Dr. Jeff Smith, president of the CVMA. “Oral disease can lead to serious consequences for pets, including infection, severe pain and even organ damage. With regular oral health maintenance and check-ups, most of these problems can be avoided.”

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 85 percent of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age four. The trouble begins when food particles and bacteria build up in the mouth to form plaque and tartar, which leads to reversible gingivitis. Gingivitis, if ignored, will progress to periodontal disease. Irreversible periodontal disease leads to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums and, in severe cases, tooth loss. When bacteria from periodontal disease travels into a pet’s bloodstream, the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and nervous system can be affected. These infections usually are treatable when caught at an early stage. However, if they are not caught in time, they can cause serious organ damage and even death.

The CVMA says all pets are at risk for developing dental problems, so it is important for owners to have their pets examined by a veterinarian annually to detect problems early. It also is important for owners to check their pets often between visits for these warning signs:

– Bad breath — Tartar buildup on the teeth — Swollen, receding or bleeding gums — Fractured or abscessed teeth — Change in eating habits

A pet should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if it shows any of the above symptoms.

“It’s important for pet owners to seek professional veterinary care in addition to providing good oral health care for their pets at home,” adds Dr. Smith.

The CVMA recommends these simple steps to ensure proper pet dental health care:

Step 1. Visit a veterinarian at least once a year.

The veterinarian will examine a pet’s teeth and gums. Recommendations may be made for cleaning, polishing and other dental care in the hospital and a program of home dental care.

Step 2. Professional dental care.

If a pet already shows evidence of periodontal disease, a professional cleaning is in order. Depending on the pet’s age and physical condition, the doctor may recommend blood analyses, radiography or other diagnostic tests to evaluate the heart, liver and kidneys for coexisting disease before proceeding with general anesthesia.

Once a pet is anesthetized, accumulated tartar and calculus are removed by ultrasonic and hand scaling. Radiographs are taken to identify teeth needing fillings or root canals that can be repaired, and teeth that are beyond repair can be extracted. Finally, the teeth are polished to slow down formation of new plaque, tartar and calculus.

It is important that only veterinarians and their trained staff, under direct supervision, perform dental cleaning. Only veterinarians have the knowledge, skills and abilities to diagnose and treat diseases of animals, including dental diseases.

Step 3. Dental care at home.

Regular brushing is critical to any preventive dental program. A special toothbrush and toothpaste for pets are recommended.

Feeding pets a dental diet with the VOHC seal may help prevent accumulation of plaque, tartar and calculus. Consult a veterinarian regarding the best diet for your pet.

Step 4. Return to a veterinarian for regular dental checkups every six to 18 months or as recommended by your veterinarian.

The CVMA urges all pet owners during “National Pet Dental Health Care Month” to review their pet’s dental care and take the necessary steps to ensure their pet has healthy teeth and gums.

Photo: Catchannel

15 Responses to “National Pet Dental Health Month”

  1. stefani says:

    Although I believe in obtaining needed dental care for your pet, I must warn pet owners:

    I have heard far too many stories of pets dying post-dental or during dental, usually due to anesthesia, or aggravation of pre-existing conditions as a result of the anesthesia.

    If you are contemplating a dental on your pet:

    1. PLEASE get the pre-anesthetic bloodwork, get a copy of it and LOOK at it. If this bloodwork shows signs of kidney failure or other serious chronic disease, you really need to think hard about whether its worth the risk. Your vet should initiate this conversation with you if the bloodwork is abnormal, and if he or she doesn’t, it is a bad sign about that vet.

    During anesthesia, blood flow to the kidneys can be reduced, further exacerbating existing kidney disease. This is especially true if the pet will be “under” a long time.

    2. Not all anesthesias are created equal. Please find out what kind of anesthesia will be used for your pet and do some research. You may want to consider paying extra for sevoflourane if available which has a more rapid recovery time than even isoflourane, which is also considered one of the safer anesthetic. But no anesthesia is 100% safe

    3. MOST seriously — does your vet use licensed veterinary technicians? Who will be prepping your pet for surgery (intubating them, etc)? Who will be monitoring your pets vital signs during surgery? Who will do the cleanings? (Only vets or LICENSED technicians should do cleaning). Who will do the extractions? (ONLY the vet should do the extractions).

    Only licensed staff should do any of these duties, and only licensed staff should control the anesthetic flow.

    I was told by a practising veterinarian that often when a pet dies under anesthesia, it is because some unlicensed veterinary support staff person turned the anesthesia up too high. The owners get told the their pet died from an “anesthetic reaction” or “heart problems” during anesthesia in these cases — no one ever says “our unlicensed assistant turned the machine up too high.”

    I know a couple whose older dog died during a dental when he was kept under several hours, extracting many more teeth than the owners had been told would be done. The owners feel they kept him under so long his heart couldn’t take it anymore.

    I recently read of another disciplinary action where pre-anesthetic bloodwork was not reviewed prior to putting the cat under for a dental. As it turns out, the cat was in kidney failure, and went into crisis after the surgery and ended up dying. As I mentioned, bloodflow to the kidneys is reduced during anesthesia.

    A trip to the vet for a dental is NOT like a trip to the dentist for us — anesthesia poses risk. Of course sometimes its absolutely needed, but please make sure all the steps are taken to make it as safe as possible.

    The Toonces Project
    “Is Your Pet Safe at the Vet?”

  2. janet says:

    I am afraid to take the risk with my healthy dog. My last dog never had his teeth cleaned and lived to be 17. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

  3. Kevin says:

    Your right Sefani,

    I had a horrible experience having Coconut’s teeth worked on. I won’t go into detail.

    What I do now is brush my cat’s teeth, Coconut and Matrix, a few times a month using an Oral B electric toothbrush. It has the perfect size brush head.

    Also I use as toothpaste called “PetzLife Oral Care Gel”. It does not require a toothbrush to apply. It’s designed to keep the tarter down. It works for them and really keeps the breath fresher. I have also used products from the vet with good success. The Petzlife is all natural and I like that.

    If interested here is additional info on PetzLife.

  4. mikken says:

    Feed whole raw foods! They keep teeth clean and mouths healthy, no dental cleanings needed.

  5. kaefamily says:

    Umm, it’s getting more and more expensive to own a dog than a child ;-)

  6. Velvet's Dad says:

    A few thoughts. I cringe at the photo. Only a small, soft-bristle brush should be used on cats. Better yet is a swab or simply using your finger. Never use a toothbrush meant for humans. Much too abrasive and can harm a feline’s gums.

    Only use tootpaste recommended for pets, such as CET. Also try dental chews for cats, such as Virbac, by CET. Chewing them releases an enzyme that fights tartar build-up.

    Kevin . . . How on earth do your cats tolerate an electric (buzzing) brush???

  7. Kevin says:

    Actually it’s not that noisy. However, I am very careful about the brushing with the electric. It does make the job quicker. And Coconut actually finds it comforting on his gums. Just don’t use the high setting.

  8. says:

    Actually I have written about this on my site as well extensively. According to Dr. Tom Lonsdale the author of Raw Meaty Bones, I have to agree with the no Junk Food Diet. If our pets are fed a natural diet, the teeth will clean themselves. Again, nothing is mentioned in this article about how to prevent the disease, it just talks about the treatment.
    Welcome to the Vet-Junk Pet Food Alliance. The 41 billion dollar industry!
    My cat is currently 21 and survived the pet food recall. Her kidney disease has now been reversed thru interactive forces. My vet has never seen this happen before, as we are told that it is irreversible.
    One of those forces is no more junk food….and you would be surprised at how much cheaper it is. I wish we could let the world of animal lovers know how this junk pet food affects the teeth, kidneys and lungs. If it isn’t good for us, how can it be food 4 our pets.


  9. 2CatMom says:

    My vet always calls me with the blood work results and his thoughts on what will probably occur (extractions, etc). When he’s finished, he calls me and let’s me know what he ended up doing - sometimes he has pulled a tooth he didn’t think he’d have to, and sometimes we hit the jackpot and he doesn’t have to pull a tooth that he initially thought he would.

    As for tooth brushing - my cat with the bad teeth does not like this at all, so I have a solution that I put on a cotton ball and rub her teeth/gums with. She does not like this either, and its really hard to get to the few bottom teeth she has left. My cat with the good teeth and I have invented a game. We play toothbrush wrestling. He grabs the toothbrush in his mouth ( I try to position it in different areas) and he chews on it. I figure he must be getting some bristles against his teeth - and since he’s big, strong, and willful, its about the most I can do without losing a couple of fingers.

  10. Dave says:

    Ummm, let’s see how this works……

    Most dogs/cats are on dry food-kibble which is crunchy and claims to keep teeth clean yet “85% of dogs & cats have oral disease by age 4″.

    A “5th Grader” at the bottom of the class could easily see the connection between bad teeth and the cause being kibble (even the vet’s kibble).

  11. Jodie says:

    The cause of dental problems in our pets is the junk food (specifically dry kibble loaded with simple carbs), as others have pointed out. But of course the vets/pet food industry will never admit to this - they’re making too much $$ from it.

  12. Mush says:

    So, what’s the difference in pet food from the 70’s to now? Growing up we had many dogs(and cats and snakes and other critters) and never brushed their teeth. They were fed grocery store dog food and went to the vet once a year for vaccines…if they were lucky. I’m sure none of them ever had their teeth cleaned. I’ve had 6 dogs in my adult life including the 3 I currently live with. Both of my shelties had terrible plaque and abcesses, my dal had issues but not as severe and now one of my chihuahuas is going in this week to get teeth pulled and cleaned. What’s the deal?? I thought I was feeding my dogs better than my parents. Is there something else going on? Drinking water?
    Thanks for any opinions.

  13. lil7 says:

    Good luck!

  14. Sue says:

    Just got back from the vet after my husband and I said goodbye to our 12-year old tabby, Tigger, that died while under anesthesia to have his teeth cleaned. The vet called me at home to tell me that Tigger’s heart had stopped towards the end of the procedure, and that they were unable to get it started again with CPR. Breaks my heart. Worst of all, when we went to see his body and say goodbye, the vet told us he’d mail us the bill. Wow, how nice of him. Would be nice if he’d at least give us a discount, but he didn’t say anything about that.

    I agree with previous posters that it seems like cats and dogs these days have way too many dental issues. I’m going to look into the natural diet method. It can’t hurt.

  15. Beth says:

    i have a 5 year old toy poodle. He has been sick since he was 2 years old. Dx with Inflammatory bowel disease and severe food allergies. He has multiple flare ups of illness and remains on only 1 food that he can eat along with mutltiple drugs. I was told he needs a dental and the vet took digital pics of his teeth which in honesty do look bad. I am sick to my stomach at the thought of putting him under. So much can and often does go wrong. The vet stated he thinks he is at only a 5% more risk then other dogs. I know bad teeth can affect other organs but he does see a specialist and is monitored all the time and put on meds for infections. He is on high dose steroids. I just do not want him to be in pain with his teeth. Which he seems not to be. But hard to tell. Part of me wants to wait until he is to do anything. I rather have a live dog with bad teeth then dead dog with good teeth. He is my baby and if I lost him to a dental my heart would never heal or forgive. Please any insight would be appreciated. I will have mad vets on my hands if I decide not to go through with this. I feel damned if I do and damned if I dont. Help… Thnks Beth

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