You care about your pet’s health and do everything you can to provide them with the care they need to live a long, happy life. Veterinary dental health’s importance is an often-overlooked pet wellbeing component. Dental disease is one of pets’ most common medical conditions, and your pet needs more than dental chews to keep their teeth and mouth clean and disease-free. Our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team explains veterinary dental care’s importance and how to maintain your pet’s oral health. 

What is dental disease in pets?

Dental disease (i.e., periodontal disease) is a condition in which the tissues supporting the teeth become inflamed. Sticky plaque forms on your pet’s teeth only hours after eating and quickly becomes cement-like tartar, which traps bacteria in and around the gumline. Tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis, causing gum and tissue irritation and inflammation. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, infection, abscesses, tooth loosening, and tooth loss. When bacteriacaused by tartar buildupenter the bloodstream, they can travel to other body areas, resulting in life-threatening organ damage. 

What are dental disease signs in pets?

Dental disease progression and severity are classified in four stages based on gum health, visible tartar, and bone erosion. Most oral destruction occurs below the gumline, and the signs are often imperceptible until the damage is severe, and the disease has progressed. In addition to bad breath, the following signs may indicate your pet has dental problems:

  • Brown or yellow tartar buildup 
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swallowing food whole, rather than chewing
  • Leaving broken crumbs around their bowl after eating
  • Taking food from their bowl and eating elsewhere
  • Blood in their water bowl or on their toys
  • Shying away from being touched near their face

If your pet exhibits any of these signs, schedule a professional veterinary dental evaluation. Our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team will assess your pet’s dental health and address any problems.

How can I care for my pet’s oral health at home?

To maintain your pet’s oral health, you must establish an appropriate at-home dental care routine. Your pet’s at-home dental health care should include:

  • Brushing your pet’s teeth daily — Plaque can harden to form tartar in 48 to 72 hours. Brush your pet’s teeth daily to help remove plaque before tartar can form. When brushing your pet’s teeth, use pet-friendly dental products, because human dental products can be toxic to pets.
  • Feeding your pet dental treats — To help prevent plaque buildup and keep your pet’s breath smelling sweet, give your four-legged friend dental treats the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has approved.

Does my pet need professional dental cleanings?

While brushing your pet’s teeth daily is the gold standard of at-home care, a comprehensive oral examination and treatment (COHAT)—including professional dental cleanings and full-mouth dental X-rays—are required for below-the-gum care. Most pets should receive an annual professional dental cleaning that includes: 

  • Dental X-rays — Each tooth is individually X-rayed to examine the root structure and surrounding bone. Most dental diseases (e.g., bone loss, root abscess) are discovered on X-ray.
  • Scaling — Tartar is removed from all teeth above and below the gumline. 
  • Polishing — Polishing smooths the teeth, leaving a plaque-repellent surface.
  • Oral examination — Your veterinarian checks gum-pocket depth and examines each tooth’s health. To determine necessary treatments, examination findings are compared with X-rays. 
  • Treatments — To remove the pain and infection source, loose, fractured, or otherwise diseased teeth are extracted, so the diseased area can heal, preventing disease from spreading to surrounding teeth. 

Why does my pet need anesthesia for a veterinary dental cleaning?

To enable your veterinarian to perform a thorough dental cleaning, your pet must receive general anesthesia, which keeps them still and pain-free during the procedure. Without anesthesia, veterinary cosmetic dental care—such as the service many groomers offer—is stressful, unsafe, and ineffective, as most problems go undiscovered and untreated.

Maintain your pet’s dental hygiene through at-home care, and ensure they receive routine professional veterinary dental cleanings. If your pet is due for their annual dental examination, schedule an appointment with our Animal Hospital of Stoney Creek team.