While playful pups and cuddly cats bring endless joy, their owners often overlook their oral health, but neglecting your pet’s teeth and gums can lead to hidden problems that affect their overall well-being. Because February is National Pet Dental Health Month, the dedicated Emerald Animal Hospital team is shedding light on the importance of maintaining our furry companions’ healthy smiles.

Your pet’s teeth are more than treat chompers, and their mouth plays a more critical role in overall health and well-being than you might realize. As in humans, when our pets eat, plaque and tartar form on their teeth, and the buildup transforms their mouth into the perfect bacteria breeding ground. Bacterial overgrowth doesn’t lead only to unpleasant breath—although, let’s be honest, that can be reason enough to act—but also may trigger a cascade of health issues.

The hidden dangers of periodontal disease in pets

Periodontal disease, which is gum inflammation, is a serious consequence of poor oral hygiene that can cause many health concerns, including:

  • Tooth root erosion that causes pain and tooth loss
  • Painful oral abscesses
  • Bacteria spreading to internal organs and potentially harming the heart, liver, kidneys, and other vital systems
  • A weakened immune system, making your pet more susceptible to other illnesses

Keep your pet’s smile sparkling 

Prevention is key to maintaining your pet’s oral health and preventing complications. You can implement the following simple yet effective strategies to decrease your pet’s periodontal disease risk:

  • Brush up on dental care — Aim to brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth three to four times a week using a specialized pet toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste, which is dangerous for pets.
    • Start with gentle touches and short brushing sessions, gradually increasing the duration as your pet becomes comfortable.
    • Make toothbrushing a positive experience with plenty of praise and rewards—a healthy, pain-free smile is worth the initial wiggles. Consistency is key, so build regular brushing sessions into your pet’s routine.
  • Consider treats for your pet’s teeth — Ditch sugary snacks and opt for dental-approved chews and toys that help remove plaque and massage gums. Choose treats appropriately sized and textured based on your pet’s breed and mouth size.
    • Look for products with enzymatic formulas that actively break down plaque and tartar.
    • Satisfy your pet’s natural chewing instincts while promoting oral health.
  • Schedule a veterinary dental cleaning — Regular at-home dental care is a good start but, like people, pets require regular professional dental cleanings.
    • Our experienced Emerald Animal Hospital veterinary team can remove stubborn tartar buildup, assess your pet’s overall oral health, and identify potential issues before they escalate.
    • Early detection can save your pet pain and prevent costly treatments down the line.
    • With regular checkups, we can tailor a personalized oral care plan for your pet based on their individual needs.

We usually recommend annual cleanings, depending on your pet’s oral health.

Be a keen observer of your pet 

You know your pet best, and you should watch for signs that may indicate dental problems and schedule an appointment as soon as possible, because early intervention is crucial for optimal outcomes. Signs include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Additional oral care for pets

Toothbrushing at home, dental chews, and regular professional cleanings are key to fighting dental disease. For extra protection, be aware that:

  • Diet matters — Feed your pet a high-quality diet formulated to promote dental health—dental-specific diets that contain ingredients to reduce plaque and tartar buildup are available, and dry kibble can help scrape away plaque as your pet chews. Avoid table scraps and sugary treats. 
  • Water is key — Ensure your pet has access to fresh water to help rinse away food particles and bacteria. Encourage drinking with multiple water bowls placed around the house or a pet fountain that provides flowing water.
  • Mouths should be inspected regularly — Gently lift your pet’s lips and look for tartar buildup, redness or swelling, broken or discolored teeth, and inflammation or bleeding. These inspections can be part of your regular bonding time with your pet.

Give your pet the gift of a lifetime—a healthy smile, a pain-free life, and overall well-being—by scheduling a dental checkup at Emerald Animal Hospital.