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March 6, 2009

Health: Dental Health

Filed under: Health Care — myminizoo @ 9:38 pm

When was the last time you took a good look inside your dog or cats mouth? If you are like the majority of the population it’s probably been a while. Regular dental care is probably the most overlooked area of pet health. According to the American Veterinary Dental Association 70-80 % of dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease by only age 3!  Periodontal disease can not only be a cosmetic problem causing yellow teeth and bad breath but it can be the cause of deeper problems such as heart murmurs or kidney disease. This article will attempt to demystify pet dental care.

Does your pets mouth look like this?

Or like this?

What is Periodontal Disease?

Peridontal disease starts with the accumulation of plaque that forms on the teeth after eating. If not cleaned the plaque accumulates and hardens into tartar on the teeth. The buildup of plaque also cause bad breath or halotosis . In time the gums react to the build up of tartar causing redness and inflammation; a condition called gingivitis. If not treated the gums will continue to become more inflamed due to the increase of plaque and will eventually be damaged and recede. This loss of gum tissue will cause the teeth to become unstable. Tooth loss,  abscess formation, and even bone infection can then occur.

Why is Periodontal Disease bad for my pet?

 Has your dog  or cat ever come over to you to give you a kiss and the moment he opened his mouth you were struck with a wall of stench? Many people think that bad breath or “doggy or kitty breath”  in pets is normal. It’s not. Bad breath is usually the first sign that a dog or cat is in the early stages of periodontal disease. But periodontal disease does not only cause cosmetically undesirable things such as bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth loss it can also affect your pets internal organs.

The buildup of plaque in dogs or cats mouth is full of bacteria. Once the gums become inflamed the bacteria is then able to freely access the blood stream. The bacteria can then spread to other areas of the body and can cause heart, liver or kidney disease as these are the organs that blood flows through. These disease are often fatal.

So, How can I tell if my dog or cat has periodontal disease?

Look for these signs: The first three signs are early signs of the disease while the remaining are more severe.

1) Smelly Breath

2) Red inflamed gums

3) Yellow hard calculus build up on teeth

4) Reluctance to eat

5) Drooling or pawing at the mouth

6) Facial sensitivity

7) Bleeding gums or tooth loss

If your pet has any of these common symptoms its important to start dental care. The early stages of periodontal disease can sometimes be reversed, but if the condition progresses your pet will have to have a professional cleaning and may have to have teeth removed.

How can I prevent dental problems?

There are two schools of thought on dental care. Conventional vets will usually recommend that you brush your pets teeth daily and use dental chews. While more holistically oriented vets will usually recommend giving your dog fresh raw bone to chew on to clean the teeth. I will discuss the pros and cons of both.

Dental disease can be prevented by brushing your dogs teeth every day and providing him with dental chews. There are also dental rinses, and water additives that have antimicrobial properties.


  • Will prevent tartar and plaque formation if used properly


  • Requires getting your pet used to having his mouth manipulated
  • Must be done everyday to be effective
  • Products can be expensive
  • Will only clean the outside surface of the teeth and tartar can still accumulate on the inside

Dental disease can also be prevented by providing your pet with the opportunity to chew on raw bones. Raw bones have been dubbed natures toothbrush as they effectively clean both sides of the teeth and the gums. Large dogs can chew on marrow bones, beef rib bones or turkey necks; while smaller dogs and cats would be more comfortable with small bones such as chicken necks.


  • Clean all the teeth and the gums while exercising the jaw muscles
  • Provide mental stimulation and keep your dog busy
  • Are inexpensive
  • Less time consuming

Below- Picture of a 4 year old raw fed dog- teeth are perfectly white- most dogs and cats have dental problems by 4


  • Have to be careful of what kind of bones you give. Some bones such as beef knuckle are easily broken off into large chunks and can be swallowed.
  • Have to monitor your pet while he is eating as there is a slight risk of choking

 No more smelly doggy kisses! Having a pet with a clean mouth is so pleasant and is better for their health and longevity.

Go hug your pet and start regular dental care today!


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