black and white cat holds toothbrush in paws

Important Information about Pet Dental Health

Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have some evidence of dental disease by the age of 3? We take care of our teeth, so we should take care of our pet’s teeth as well. Dental health is very important to our pet’s overall health!

We’ll learn about periodontal disease, look at some signs and symptoms of dental problems in your pet, ways to prevent problems in the first place, get a vet’s perspective, and hear about special issues relating to cats.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue our pets deal with, and it is also preventable. Periodontal disease is an inflammation and infection of the gums, causing tooth decay and potential tooth loss. It begins when bacteria start to form plaque, that sticks to the teeth. Natural minerals in the mouth start to harden the plaque, turning it into a cement-like form of tartar, which firmly sticks to the teeth. At this point, periodontal disease can be stopped or slightly reversed, or it can continue to get more serious, like when the plaque and tartar spread under the gum line. The bacteria that are lying under the gum line then start destroying the tissue supporting and surrounding the tooth. These initial changes in the mouth start to change your pet’s immune system. Along with problems in the mouth, other organs in the body are directly at risk. Both the heart and kidneys are at risk for severe problems if a periodontal infection is not treated.

The disease comes in 4 stages:

  • Stage 1: mild build-up of tartar and slightly swollen and reddened gums. No bone loss.
  • Stage 2: build-up of tartar, swollen and reddened gums. X-rays will show 0-25% bone loss.
  • Stage 3: more swelling due to bone loss. Bone loss starts occurring due to plaque under the gum line. Sometimes the affected teeth can be saved, but most will need to be extracted to prevent further damage.
  • Stage 4: This is when symptoms become noticeable and a serious problem is at hand. Bad breath, visible bulge of the crown, tenderness, red gums, and decrease in appetite are all signs of stage 4 periodontal disease. There are pockets in the gums due to substantial bone loss.

Signs Your Dog May Have a Dental Issue

How are we supposed to know if our dog has periodontal disease or some other dental issue? When trying to diagnose a dental issue in our pets, look for these signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Discolored teeth and gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Ulcers/pus on gums or tongue
  • Trouble eating or chewing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Change in behavior, as in acting timid or aggressive

Prevention Is Key

It’s best if we don’t have to treat dental disease, and instead, we can just prevent it, right? Well, here’s how:

  • Brushing-this should be part of your daily/weekly routine, according to vets. This is the best way to prevent build-up on the teeth between professional cleanings. Start by letting your doggy smell the toothbrush and toothpaste, and then gradually work your way up to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of his mouth, at least, every other day.
  • Dental toys and treats like Greenies that gently scrape teeth clean and remove excess calcium in the saliva that can be deposited in teeth are a good way to prevent tartar build-up.
  • **Bones and rawhides are good at scraping teeth clean as well
  • A diet low in sugars and carbohydrates will make a HUGE difference. Make sure you are buying a  good, quality food.
  • Water additives, sprays, and gels that are plaque retardant are available
  • Regular dental check-ups, cleanings and x-rays are important
  • Act quickly if you suspect there is a dental issue, and get your doggy right in to see the vet!

*Human toothpaste should be avoided for pets as they contain harmful chemicals that should not be swallowed.

Dental Checkups

Dr. Barden Greenfield, DVM, specializes in dentistry at Memphis Veterinary Specialists. He was adamant about the importance of regular dental checkups and x-rays, “The best way to prevent dental disease is to have a dental exam during the pet’s annual checkup. Make sure that your veterinarian is looking thoroughly. It is also important that your regular veterinarian knows what to look for during a dental exam.” In some cases, dental x-rays are going to be your number one tool in combating disease. According to Dr. Greenfield, x-rays can detect 40% more issues in cats and 30% more in dogs than an exam without x-rays.

Cat Dental Health

Dental disease is no different in cats than it is in dogs. It may be difficult to get cats to accept an at-home oral health routine, though! There are specific toothbrushes made just for cats, there are finger-brushes, gels, and water additives as we already talked about. Try different pet-toothpaste flavors, or try making your own at home. Also, try brushing your cat’s teeth around people he trusts in a calm environment!

To Summarize

Maintenance and early treatment of a problem will help prevent a big issue with a big vet bill in the future. **Ropes, raw bones, and rawhide chips will entertain your dog, all the while scraping plaque off his teeth. An average Stage 4 dental cleaning with extractions and pain management will cost well over $500. And your pet may need to have this procedure performed multiple times. Untreated dental infections can also lead to infections of major organs, like the heart and kidneys, and this can threaten your pet’s life. As humans, we do all that we can to make sure we take care of our own teeth. We need to do the same with our fur babies!

**Remember, always supervise your pet with any toys or chews**

-Written by Kelsey Miner

vet examines yellow lab's teeth

Dogs, Cats, and Dental Health

Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will show evidence of dental disease by age 3? That’s a scary statistic and something about which all pet parents should be worried. As people, we usually brush our teeth twice a day (at least), so what should we be doing to make sure our dogs and cats have healthy teeth and gums for their whole lives?

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental health is a very important part of a pet’s overall health. This February is a great time for us to check in on our pet’s teeth and gums, and commit to taking care of them all year long.

Periodontal Disease, Defined

Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue our pets deal with, and it is preventable!

Periodontal disease is an inflammation and infection of the gums, which causes tooth decay and potential tooth loss. It begins when bacteria start to form plaque, which sticks to teeth. Then the plaque hardens and becomes tartar, which binds to our pets’ teeth like cement.

This is the point at which something MUST be done to stop or reverse periodontal disease, or else it will spread under the gum line and the bacteria will start to destroy the tissue supporting and surrounding the tooth.

These changes in the mouth also start to change our pets’ immune systems. This puts other organs in the body directly at risk. The heart, as well as our pets’ kidneys, are at risk for severe problems if a periodontal infection is not treated.

What to Watch for in our Pets

As pet parents, our dogs and cats rely on us to make sure they have healthy teeth and gums. A lot of this responsibility comes in the form of prevention of periodontal disease, but what should we be looking for to see if our pet’s teeth and gums have already begun to deteriorate?

Here are the signs for which we should be watching:
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Discolored teeth and gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Ulcers/pus on gums or tongue
  • Trouble eating and chewing or loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Tenderness or pain in the mouth
  • Change in behavior, especially around food or at mealtimes

Prevention is Key

The best way to avoid all of these issues is to prevent them in the first place. Here are a few ways to make sure our pets’ teeth and gums are healthy for a lifetime:

  • The MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do to prevent periodontal disease is to feed our dogs and cats a diet low in sugars and carbohydrates. This will make a HUGE difference. We should all make sure we are buying a good, quality food. Ask your favorite Hollywood Feed associate what they recommend and if your pet’s current food is the right choice.
  • Dental toys and treats like Greenies will gently scrape teeth clean and remove excess calcium in the saliva that can be deposited in teeth. Greenies are a good way to prevent tartar build-up.
  • **Bones, rawhides, and antlers are good at keeping teeth clean as well, as our dogs will chew and scrape their teeth against them. Check out this Butcher’s Block Jum-Bone.
  • Water additives, sprays, and gels that are plaque retardant are another option. Check out this Bluestem Water Additive and Bluestem Oral Spray
  • Brushing should be part of your weekly routine, according to vets. Brushing your dog’s and cat’s teeth can help prevent build-up.
  • Regular dental check-ups with our veterinarians are important as well, especially if you suspect any issues or see any warning signs.
  • Act quickly if you suspect there is a dental issue, and get your pet right in to see the vet!

*Human toothpaste should not be used on pets because they contain harmful chemicals that should not be swallowed.

Final Thoughts

Prevention and early treatment of periodontal disease is ideal. Making sure our pets are eating a low sugar, low carbohydrate food and providing them with a $5 or $10 bone regularly will help prevent a big issue with a big vet bill in the future.

An average Stage 4 dental cleaning with extractions and pain management will cost well over $500. And depending on the severity and ability to provide treatment, our pets may need to have this procedure performed multiple times.

Untreated dental infections can also lead to infections of major organs, which can threaten our pets’ lives. As humans, we do all that we can to make sure we take care of our own teeth. We need to do the same with our fur babies!

**Remember, always supervise your pet with any toys or chews**

woman pets bulldog outdoors

Bad Breath Busters

We all know the smell of puppy breath! It may not be the most pleasant of smells, but there’s also something endearing about a tiny puppy with stinky breath. However, puppies will eventually grow out of their stinky breath. If bad breath does persist into adulthood, it can be hard to find it quite as cute. In fact, we need to do something about it!

Bad breath can be prevented with a little time and energy, but if our adult dogs suddenly develop a terrible case of halitosis, then what should we do? The cause of bad breath could be as simple as a change in food or treats, or there may be reason for concern about a health issue.

Causes of Bad Breath:

 Change in Diet

happy chocolate lab outside with tongue out

 

Take a minute to think. Did your dog’s bad breath begin when you switched to a new food or treat? Have you begun using a fish oil supplement recently? Have you caught Fido eating poop? (My Skeeter has been known to eat poop from time to time, and it is highly disgusting. This is a great reason for us all to keep our yards scooped! Read How Can I Keep My Backyard Clean and Smelling Fresh and 5 Reasons to Scoop Your Dog’s Poop to learn more.)

These are all reasons that our dog’s breath could suddenly start to stink. One step we can each take is to make sure our yard stays poop-free.

If we have recently begun feeding a food high in fish oils, or giving our dog a fish oil supplement, then we should wait a few weeks until our dog’s body becomes used to digesting this new ingredient before we decide to stop using it. After a few weeks, the bad breath will probably go away if fish oil is the culprit.

If waiting it out for 4-6 weeks doesn’t work, then we may want to try changing our dog back to his old diet, or try another new food to see if his breath starts to smell more sweetly again. If our dogs’ breath smells better after switching foods, then we have found the culprit!

 Possible Medical Concern

vet examines yellow lab's teeth

 

Bad breath can also be caused by bacteria building up in our dogs’ mouth or elsewhere in the digestive tract. If our dogs develop bad breath suddenly, this may be a sign of gum disease or some other bacterial or fungal infection in the body.

Bad breath can also be a sign of a larger problem in dogs (and humans). Diseases such as cancer or diabetes may be to blame, or there may be something going wrong with our dogs’ organs.

If we try the simple fixes for bad breath I talk about below and nothing changes with our dogs’ breath, or if there are other symptoms present that lead us to think there may be a bigger issue, then it is probably time to go see our veterinarian to find out if there is a medical cause for the smell.

Bad Breath Fixes:

There are several things we can do at home to try to fix Fido’s bad breath:

1. Dental Care

 

We should focus on regular dental care for our dog. Brushing our dogs’ teeth at home will help to prevent bad breath from starting in the first place, but it can also remove any plaque buildup that has occurred. It can also help to relieve bad breath as well. Our dogs’ gums should not be red or bleeding when we give them a brushing. This is a sign of dental disease and we should take our dog in to see the vet. Read more about good dental care for our pets: Dogs, Cats and Dental Health.

2. Alternatives to Brushing

**Besides brushing with a toothbrush, we can give our pets rawhides, bones, and other chews like Greenies to help with bad breath. These treats are easy to give to our pets! I know my three dogs love to chew a raw bone or Greenie. Besides being easy for us and fun for our dogs, these bones and chews will rub against our dogs’ teeth as they chew them, scraping off plaque very similarly to a toothbrush.

3. Dental Care Products

If we’re looking for a breath spray or water additive to help with bad breath, we carry several options to suit you and your dog best! 

Zymox Breath Freshener will freshen breath by preventing bad bacteria from building up in our dogs’ mouth as well as attacking the plaque which is
already there. Just a spritz in our dog’s mouth is all there is to it!

Zymox Water Additive is a concentrated formula that we add to our dogs’ water bowl when we fill it. It is flavorless, so our dogs won’t even know it’s there. It will help clean teeth and prevent bad plaque build-up without brushing.

Bluestem Water Additive is made with coactiv+ and is scientifically prepared to freshen your pet’s breath while combatting the buildup of plaque and tartar. This simple-to-use formula is easy to administer; simply drop two capfuls into your pet’s water bowl daily for the best results.

Bluestem Oral Spray Vanilla & Mint is an easy-to-use and highly effective method of freshening your pet’s breath and strengthening his or her long-term oral health. This oral spray is a great part of a comprehensive oral health care routine that can decrease the chances of periodontal disease. Use daily for the best results.

4. Clean Bowl = Happy Mouth

We should all make sure that our dogs have clean food and water bowls! Gross things build up on water and food bowls after days and weeks of not being washed. We should aim to wash our pets’ food and water bowls with soap and hot water at least once a week. Stainless steel bowls make this very easy and are my preference.

5. Natural Remedies

**If we’re looking for a natural remedy for bad breath, there are a few things we can try. We can squeeze a little lemon in our pets’ water bowl or sprinkle some parsley over their food at dinner. Also, abrasive fruits and veggies like carrots and apples can help scrape teeth clean similarly to rawhides and Greenies (and my dogs love them).

6. Veterinary Visit

dog gets check-up

Finally, if we have tried everything to remedy our dogs’ bad breath and there is no change, then it is time to schedule a veterinary appointment. Your dog may need a professional dental cleaning or may have a health issue that needs to be diagnosed and fixed.

Remember, puppy breath is cute, but halitosis is not! Try these simple fixes to remedy bad breath, and if all else fails or if other symptoms are present, let’s make a trip to our vet.

Have you found any other bad breath remedies that work well for your dog? Let us know in the comment section below!

**Remember, always supervise your pet with any toys or chews**