Dental health is often an overlooked aspect of a pet’s overall health, as many people believe doggy breath is normal for pets. However, your furry pal’s bad breath is likely a dental disease sign, one of the most prevalent conditions affecting cats and dogs. To ensure your four-legged friend enjoys a happy and healthy life, you need to pay attention to their oral hygiene. Read our Cupertino Animal Hospital team’s 10 facts every pet owner should know about feline and canine dental health.

#1: Dental disease is common in pets

Dental disease is incredibly common among pets, with up to 90% of all cats and dogs exhibiting periodontal problems by age 3. From plaque and tartar buildup to gingivitis and periodontal disease, oral issues can significantly impact your pet’s overall health and well-being.

#2: Bad breath is not normal for pets

Contrary to popular belief, a pet’s foul-smelling breath is not normal. Halitosis is often an early dental disease sign, which can lead to pain, infection, and systemic health issues if left untreated. A pet with a healthy mouth may have slight breath odor, particularly after eating, but if you can’t bear to cuddle on the couch next to your furry pal, they likely have dental disease.

#3: Dental health affects your pet’s overall health

Poor dental hygiene doesn’t just impact your pet’s mouth; inadequate dental care can also affect their overall health. Bacteria from dental infections can enter a pet’s bloodstream, leading to complications in vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Oral bacteria particularly enjoy taking up residence on the heart valves and are often the reason pets develop cardiac disease.

#4: Toothbrushing is essential for maintaining your pet’s oral health

Regular toothbrushing is key to maintaining your pet’s dental health. Get your furry friend accustomed to toothbrushing from a young age, using tasty, fluoride-free toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Aim to brush your pet’s teeth daily or at least several times per week to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

#5: Dental diets and treats can improve your pet’s oral health

Specialized dental diets and treats are formulated to promote oral health by reducing plaque and tartar buildup. Prescription dental diets have a unique design that encourages chewing and improves plaque removal, while dental chews and treats have specific shapes and ingredients that eliminate plaque and tartar. Look for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to ensure their effectiveness, as not all dental health products can stand behind their claims.

#6: Professional oral exams are crucial for your pet’s dental health

Regular professional oral exams, whether as a stand-alone visit or as part of your pet’s annual wellness care, are essential for identifying and addressing early dental issues. Dr. Kureshi will perform your pet’s comprehensive oral exam and recommend appropriate dental care, such as how frequently you should schedule your furry pal’s professional dental cleanings, which are performed while they receive anesthesia, and the dental care products that would be most effective for your pet at home.

#7: Watch for dental problems signs in your pet

Be vigilant about recognizing your pet’s dental problem signs such as bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, difficulty chewing, pawing at the mouth, and reluctance to eat or play with toys. Early intervention can prevent dental disease from progressing, and ensure your pet avoids unnecessary pain and infection.

#8: Start your pet’s dental care when they are young

Start your pet’s dental care routine when they are young to establish good habits and prevent future dental issues. Puppies and kittens can benefit from gentle toothbrushing and regular dental checkups as part of their overall wellness care before their adult teeth come in.

#9: Dental toys can promote oral health in your pet

Chew toys and dental chews can help promote oral hygiene by reducing plaque and tartar buildup while providing mental stimulation and entertainment for your pet. Choose toys designed to support dental health and supervise your pet during chewing sessions. Ensure the products you pick are not so hard that they could damage your pet’s teeth. Test items before purchasing by pressing your fingernail into the toy. If your nail leaves a mark, the toy is soft enough for your pet to chew. 

#10: Regular professional dental cleanings are necessary for all pets

Despite diligent home care, all pets still require professional dental cleanings performed while they are under general anesthesia. These cleanings involve scaling above and below the gumline to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth, polishing to smooth the tooth surfaces, and a comprehensive examination for any periodontal disease signs that need to be addressed.

Prioritizing your pet’s dental health is essential for their overall well-being and longevity. By staying informed about common dental issues, implementing a regular at-home and professional dental care routine, and seeking veterinary guidance when needed, you can ensure that your furry friend maintains a healthy and happy smile for years to come. Give our Cupertino Animal Hospital team a call to set up your pet’s oral exam or dental cleaning.