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February 2012

Pet Dental Care

The reason why dental care for your pets is so important is because according to the American Veterinary Dental Society by age three 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop dental disease. Clinical research shows a direct correlation between poor oral health and systemic diseases. Bacteria, food debris and saliva cause plaque. It takes three to five days for plaque to become calculus, commonly known as “tartar.” Bacteria enter the bloodstream at the gum line. These bacteria can infect the heart, liver, kidney, lungs and weaken the immune system as it travels throughout the body. Left untreated, periodontal disease will lead to oral pain, tooth loss and systemic problems.

How do you know if your pet has periodontal disease? Signs include:

1. Your pet has bad breath.

2. Their gums are inflamed.

3. The gums bleed while they are eating.

4. There is tartar build up on the teeth and gum line. Tartar is the yellowish-brown crusty stuff.

5. There is a change in eating habits. It now hurts to eat. They are avoiding the hard kibble and begging for your softer food.

6. Cats can develop resorptive lesions on the gums. These are very painful.

There are many ways for you to provide the means to care for your pets teeth. If their teeth are in poor condition, you will want to schedule a visit with your veterinarian first. You may choose to have an ultrasonic scaling done and start with a clean slate. An ultrasonic scaling is usually what veterinarians’ refer to as a dental.

Dental Toys

What makes a toy a dental toy? The design should include ways to massage the gums, strengthen the chewing muscles, remove tartar build up and clean between the teeth. These would include toys with raised nubs, rope toys and toys designed for power chewers. Keep in mind that you need to buy appropriate sized toys for your pets. Inappropriate sized toys can become a choking hazard.


Always read the ingredient list. Hidden sugars, such as beet pulp, molasses or high fructose corn syrup defeat the purpose of the treat. Bacteria feed on sugar. The purpose of the treat should either create friction to break down the calculus or contains ingredients that do. 


While those $12 triple head brushes are good, a toothbrush from the dollar store will do the trick. If your pet allows you access to his mouth, a finger brush would be less intrusive than a toothbrush. A piece of gauze wrapped around your finger will also work.


Use pet toothpaste. Toothpaste made for people contains fluoride and detergents which are harmful to your pet. Introduce it to your pet in a gradual, positive manner. Start with something tasty like peanut butter or tuna water. Begin in the rear of the mouth and work your way out. Your pet may be more accepting of the brush leaving the mouth as opposed to entering it. Brush their teeth in the same manner as you do for yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot finish in one sitting. It may take time and patience on your part for your pet to accept it. You should brush their teeth two to three times a week. Read the ingredient list. Surprisingly, some pet toothpastes contain hidden sugars.

Dental Sprays and Gels

These contain ingredients that dissolve plaque and tartar when sprayed or applied directly into your pets’ mouth at the gum line. Read the ingredient list. Know what you are spraying into their mouths.

Dental Wipes

The active ingredient is Chlorohexidine. Chlorohexidine kills the bacteria that form plaque. Like the gauze wraps, they are less intrusive than a toothbrush.


Many commercial pet foods contain hidden sugars and a high carbohydrate (fillers) ratio. Bacteria feed on these. Read your labels. Your pets’ diet should include a high quality dry food. Dry kibble creates more friction than eating canned. The friction helps to remove tartar.

Raw Bones

Raw bones are nature’s toothbrush. They are easy to find at any supermarket. To emphasize: RAW BONES. Cooked bones will splinter and cause intestinal damage. When your pets gnaw on the bones, it naturally removes plaque and tartar. The bones also provide a good source of available calcium. The marrow contains enzymes, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and bulk to help your pet stay healthy and regular. However, marrow is very rich. Some pets, such as those with or prone to pancreatitis cannot digest it well. For those pets, you can push the marrow out before giving the bone to them.  This is my choice for the dental care of my pets. Their teeth, over the last year, have improved dramatically. Last year, Reno needed a dental done. This year, he does not.


I do harp on reading the ingredient list. Unfortunately, the pet industry does not have well enforced rules and regulations. If you are uncertain to what an ingredient really is, Google it. 

Your pets’ teeth need to last them a lifetime. Assist them in that goal by providing them with the necessary tools to practice a healthy dental lifestyle. It is never too late to start.

To attend a webinar on Dental Care for pets, follow this link:

The date of the next class is Wednesday, December 15th at 8pm EST. The cost is $19.95. The recording of this class will become available On Demand after the live class for $9.95. The link for the recording only can be found on the On Demand Library at