When your furry pal leans in for a kiss, do you recoil at their bad breath? Although you may think doggy or tuna breath is perfectly normal for dogs and cats, a healthy mouth should not have a stinky odor. So, the next time your pet gifts you with a slobbery wet kiss, take a whiff of their breath. If it’s smelly, it’s past time to brush up on your four-legged friend’s dental care. Your pet’s oral health requires a two-pronged approach to tackle tough plaque and tartar and remove all traces of bacteria that are responsible for bad breath and infection.

How to manage your pet’s dental health at home

With the majority—up to 85%—of all pets developing some form of dental disease by age 3, your pet needs an at-home dental care regimen established the first day you bring them home. By accustoming your pet to toothbrushing and routine oral check-ups, they’ll quickly adapt to accepting dental care. 

When setting up your pet’s at-home dental care plan, add the following tools to your arsenal:  

  • Toothbrushing — Twice-daily toothbrushing is the gold standard of at-home dental care for pets. To ensure toothbrushing success, purchase a pet-specific, fluoride-free toothpaste. Pet toothpastes come in a wide variety of flavors that will entice your pet to accept toothbrushing, especially when paired with a small, soft child’s toothbrush or finger brush. 
  • Dental health products — When choosing dental health products, keep in mind that not all are created equal. Many claim to be the best at battling plaque and tartar, but that is not always the case. Instead of falling prey to flashy marketing gimmicks, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, which is awarded only to dental products with the proven ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation. Treats, chews, diets, dental wipes, and food and water additives stamped with the VOHC seal of approval can be an important part of your pet’s at-home dental care regime.

How to manage your pet’s dental health with your veterinarian

Paired with your pet’s at-home dental care is professional veterinary care. Since toothbrushing can tackle only the plaque on the exposed tooth surfaces, reaching below the gumline to eradicate hidden disease requires professional help. As much as 60% of each tooth’s structure lies below the gums, which means there is ample room for problems to develop. When your pet visits Caldwell Animal Hospital for dental care, we will provide the following services:

  • Regular oral exams — Pets are generally not fond of people poking and prodding around inside their mouth, and a professional touch is usually required to get a good look at your pet’s pearly whites. While you can keep a close eye out for dental disease signs, such as gingivitis, tartar accumulation, or difficulty chewing or eating, our hospital team will carefully evaluate your pet’s mouth during the physical exam. We can typically spot subtle clues that indicate we need to take a closer look at your pet’s dental health to treat hidden problems.
  • Dental cleanings — Every single pet can benefit from at least one dental cleaning, with many pets requiring multiple comprehensive cleanings to maintain good oral health. No other dental care method can reach below your pet’s gumline to eradicate lurking oral bacteria. During your pet’s dental cleaning, we will provide a comprehensive oral exam, take digital dental X-rays, and scale, polish, and treat their periodontal problems. Dental X-rays will help to diagnose tooth-root abscesses, jawbone loss, impacted teeth, and other disease sources. Scaling is an essential part of your pet’s dental cleaning to ensure all traces of plaque and tartar are removed to eliminate the risk of systemic infection and disease. Polishing then removes microabrasions in your pet’s tooth enamel and creates a stronger surface to repel sticky plaque.

While we applaud your toothbrushing efforts, keep in mind your furry pal will also need regular veterinary dental cleanings during their lifetime. At each wellness visit, we’ll evaluate your pet’s dental health and let you know how we’ve graded their dental disease, to help you know when to schedule their next dental cleaning. If you’re unsure about the current status of your pet’s pearly whites, contact our Caldwell Animal Hospital team for an appointment.