Did you know that most cats and dogs develop dental issues before attaining the age of three? Dental disease is top in the list of common conditions that affect pets.

Most people assume that bad breath coming out of their pet’s mouth means that they ate something smelly or that it’s normal. Truth is, however, bad breath could indicate a severe tooth or gum infection, a condition that could turn deadly for the pet if the harmful bacteria makes it into the pet’s bloodstream and vital organs.

Dental care should be as much of a priority as it is to feed your pet. Failure to care for your pet leaves your furry friend vulnerable to immense pain from tooth decay and other serious dental issues. The best way to avoid all these dental inconveniences is by equipping yourself with enough information regarding pet dental health.

So to point you in the right direction, here’s everything you need to know.

Dental Disease in Pets. What Is It?
Dental disease in pets happens following the excessive build-up of plaque, yellow tartar, and bacteria. The bacteria slowly burrows into the teeth and penetrates the gum line and into the bloodstream. This gives harmful bacteria access to major organs throughout the pet’s body, causing even more health complications.

8 Facts you should know Regarding Pet Dental Health

Yes, you love your pet to bits. But who wants to cuddle with or get licked by a pet with a smelly mouth? Dental disease is a common issue among pets. While you cannot offer your pet breath mints or mouth wash to clear bad breath, learning facts surrounding pet oral health can help place things into perspective and to understand better. Some of the facts regarding your pet’s oral health include,

  • Dental Disease Begins Way Before Detection
    It is wrong to assume that dental issues in your pets crop up once they start showing signs of distress or decreased appetite. In most cases, a cat or dog may have swollen gums and bad breath dating back to when they were barely three years old.

It is advisable to be very keen on how your pet is doing. Part of this requires inspecting their teeth and gums. If you notice any redness on the gums, cavities, broken teeth, or foul smell, visit your vet. Ignoring the issue could lead to worse problems where the dog or cat could begin to experience severe pain in the mouth, show signs of inflammation, and even refuse to eat.

  • It’s More Common Than You Think
    Of all clinical conditions among pets, dental disease comes first. According to recent numbers, up to 80% of dogs and up to 70% of cats contract dental disease before or by the time they hit three years old.

Don’t wait until your dog is growling in pain to take them to the vet. If you want to stay on the safe side, book an appointment for your pet’s oral exam at least once every year.

  • Pets Suffering Dental Disease Experience Immense Pain
    Pets are quite good at hiding it when they suffer pain. It’s easy for you to miss that your cat or dog is in pain. But if you are a little more observant, you’ll notice that your pet isn’t themselves. They may be more aggressive or moody, lethargic, irritable, and even show signs of reduced appetite.

Inflammation, infection, and broken or teeth with cavities can cause any immense animal pain. A thorough dental procedure and treatment of any dental issues is all it takes to get the pet back to normal.

  • Treatment Requires Plaque Removal
    Years of poor dental care and hygiene in pets leads to a significant build-up of plaque. Successful plaque removal requires having each slightly beneath the gums. The goal is to make sure that there’s absolutely no plaque left for bacteria to thrive on. The process of plaque removal can be a bit painful for the pet. In most cases, the vet recommends that your dog/cat be put on numbing medication or anesthesia during the procedure.
  • Anesthesia is Necessary for Safe and Efficient Dental Evaluation
    The majority of pet owners are quite skeptical about giving consent for their furry pals to be put on anesthesia before the dental evaluation. To you, a dental evaluation is a simple procedure that doesn’t need such intensive measures.

But considering the vet will be using sharp tools and needles to look into your pet’s mouth, lean their teeth, and to check for irregularities under the gum, it would be unfair to force the pet to face the fear and discomfort of undergoing the procedure.
The veterinary nurses are keen not to put your pet on anesthesia unless it is needed. And even then, they will conduct blood tests and physical tests to make sure that your pet is fit to handle anesthesia. Throughout the procedure, your cat/dog will be closely monitored to keep their vital in check.

  • Proper Diagnosis Requires X-Rays
    Even for an experienced vet, it can be difficult to notice irregularities on your pet’s teeth using only their naked eyes. For a thorough diagnosis, your pet will have to take an X-ray. It’s no surprise to find a pet with seemingly perfect teeth on the outside harboring serious dental issues under the gums where it’s only visible via X-ray.
    Even for pets with visible dental issues, the X-ray helps unveil even more underlying issues and helps to tell the extent of the damage to their teeth, if any.
  • Comfort and Safety Comes First
    During a dental evaluation and treatment, the vets abide by strict protocols personalized to your pet’s needs. While the number one goal is to treat and eliminate the oral health issue your pet is facing, coming a close second is maintaining the pets comfort and safety. Usually, this means ensuring that the pain feels little to no discomfort during and after the procedure.
    If, for example, your pet is undergoing a tooth extraction procedure, they will not only be put on anesthesia, but they will be offered numbing medications to limit the amount of pain they will feel. It takes up to eight hours for the anesthesia and the numbing meds to wear off. The vet will prescribe more pain medication, which you will give your pet to keep the pain level low as the pet comfortably rests and recovers a home.
  • Your Pet’s Oral Health and Well Being Start At Home
    Remember to brush your pet’s teeth at least once every day. Part of oral hygiene is sticking to a homecare routine that keeps your pet’s teeth looking and feeling good. This not only prevents extensive oral surgeries but also saves you a lot of money, which could have been spent paying for treatment.

Never use human toothpaste to clean your pet’s teeth because it contains Xylitol, a chemical that is toxic to animals. Instead, use toothpaste specifically designed for your pets.

Aside from bad breath, other signs of dental disease to watch out for in pets include receding gums, difficulty chewing and eating, discolored teeth, and constant pawing on their mouth.

Dental care for pets is just as critical as maintaining their overall health. To keep your pet from losing their teeth, above are crucial facts that not only help you understand pet oral health but further inform you about the importance of dental care and hygiene. Feel free to consult further with your dog’s/cat’s vet for answers to any pending concerns regarding your pet’s dental health.


  • Mary is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Creature Companions where she writes about brachycephalic dog breeds. Prior to her current path she worked as a researcher in animal conservation at Imperial College in London, UK. After receiving her undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in animal science Mary has devoted herself to making a difference in the lives of animals. Mary has always been passionate about animal welfare and conservation and enjoys being able to share her knowledge to provide valuable information to her readers.