Ask the vet: What is the deal with Pet Dental Care?

dog dental cleaning, ask a vet, online vet, pet dental careHaving the conversation with pet owners that are dubious that their pets need dental care is a repetitive part but essential part of being a veterinarian.  It is true that periodontal disease is by far the most common disease I see in dogs or cats older than a mere two or three years of age, and while more and more pet owners are recognizing that they pets can get toothaches like they can, there are still a large number of pet owners that ignore the fact that pets need dental care too.

Bad dog breath is not normal. It usually signals periodontal disease, which leads to tooth decay, oral abscesses, bleeding gums, tooth loss, and systemic infections that affect the kidneys, liver, and heart. And that doesn’t even mention the pain associated with periodontal disease.

So how often should you brush your pet’s teeth? Daily. This is one of those do as I say and not as I do. I am guilty of not brushing our pet’s teeth daily. I understand how difficult it is, and am not passing judgment. But if you strive for daily and perhaps reach every other day, I can vouch in the difference it will make.

Luckily, most general practice vets are trained in dental cleanings. While the procedure does require anesthesia as we are poking in the backs of their mouths with tickly instruments and headlamps, it is not a reason to shy away from the procedure. I would seek out a vet that includes pre-anesthetic blood-work (including both a complete blood cell count and a serum biochemistry panel) as part of the package deal. If your veterinarian has the blood work itemized separately and as an option, they really don’t have your pet’s best interest at heart and it is a red flag warning that they are willing to cut corners and risk your pet’s health.

After getting a clean and squeaky smile to move forward with, you can ask a vet to demonstrate how to effectively brush your pet’s teeth. It may take some practice (okay, guaranteed it will), but give it time. Also, make sure to use a toothpaste specifically for dogs or cats. Since they don’t rinse and spit, if they swallow our toothpaste it can be dangerous for them.

We are nearing the end of Pet Dental Month. How many times have you brushed your dog or cat’s teeth this month? Make the last few days count if you’ve forgotten! What are your best tips for fellow pet owners?

Dr. Laci


Dr. Laci Nash Schaible, DVM

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February 25, 2011 at 23:30

We brush teeth 2x daily, HA! :-)

February 28, 2011 at 13:21

You are SO good! WOW!

February 28, 2011 at 15:03

Jasmine is, She is such a lady at accepting the inevitable :-)

February 28, 2011 at 17:02

I’ve been trying to brush our dog’s teeth every day since our vet cleaned them (after doing the blood work) about a year ago.

I use a toothbrush and toothpaste from Triple Pet. I’ve developed my own routine, right or wrong. Can you recommend a good video on YouTube or elsewhere that demonstrates correct techniques? Thanks!

March 1, 2011 at 13:49

Hi Chris,

This one provides some good practical info

Remember, it really does take time for most pets to get used to the routine! Hang in there, and good for you for keeping at it!

Thanks for commenting!

May 16, 2012 at 13:10

I’ve never use Care Credit but have one separate Visa card for emcerengy medical for me or pets. No annual fee regular interest if I use it plus you can keep track of all dr. bills prescription costs. Usually where you do your banking would probably have good deal.

July 27, 2012 at 17:00

Tamra has watched my cats many times while I visit my fiamly in Dallas. I used to have friends watch them, and when I came home the cats seemed anxious and unhappy. Now, I come home to happy, well-cared-for cats who have obviously had lots of affection while I have been away. Tamra is truly amazing with animals! She has an infectious love for all living things, and has a very professional attitude about animal care. I would definitely recommend her!