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Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Blog

The Truth About Dental Care


For most of us, caring for our teeth and gums has been a part of our daily routine for as long as we can remember. Just like it is for you, oral health care is important for pets -- regular, professional care from veterinarians and home care from pet owners to keep plaque removed.

Daily brushing and feeding special treats or pet foods, such as Hill's Prescription Diet t/d, can help.

Pet Dental Facts:

  • Periodontal disease is the most prevalent disease among dogs and cats.
  • An astounding 80% of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age three, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS).
  • Periodontal disease is common in dogs of smaller breeds because dogs' teeth often are too large for their mouths, forcing the teeth closer together.
  • Dogs start out with 28 deciduous (baby) teeth; cats start out with 26 deciduous teeth. By six months of age, these baby teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, 42 in the dog and 30 in the cat.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Plaque is a film that contains large amounts of bacteria. If left unchecked, plaque builds up, creating infection, destroying gums and resulting in the loss of the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Preventative oral care can reduce the formation of plaque and help maintain proper oral health throughout a pet's life.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

All pets are at risk for developing dental problems. Once a pet displays any of the warning signs below, serious periodontal disease may be present. Don't wait for these signs. Rather, start a preventive program of veterinarian supervised dental care.

  • Tooth Loss
  • Subdued Behavior
  • Abnormal Drooling
  • Swallowing Food Whole
  • Bad Breath
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Change of Chewing/Eating Habits

Pet owners should look for warning signs of oral disease. Common indications include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression. If any of these signs are present, the pet should be taken to the veterinarian for a dental exam.

Treatment of Oral Disease

Pet owners should practice regular dental care regimen at home, which may include brushing the pet's teeth with specially formulated toothpaste. Pet owners should schedule regular follow-up care with their veterinarians and ask about specially formulated foods with proven benefits in plaque and tartar removal.