All sorts of myths about pet health abound, particularly about their dental health and the care required. In honor of National Pet Dental Health Month that occurs each February, our Premier Pet Hospital team is separating fact from fiction when it comes to your four-legged friend’s dental health. 

Fact or fiction: Your pet’s oral health affects their entire body

Fact: Dental disease is more than a problem that affects your pet’s mouth. In fact, oral bacteria can slip into your pet’s bloodstream through gums inflamed by infection and travel to the major organs. Oral bacteria especially likes to build up on the heart valves and cause disease, but can also cause kidney and liver disease. Dental disease is so much more than an oral health issue, so maintaining good oral hygiene is extremely important.

Fact or fiction: Pets do not require as much dental care as people

Fiction: You may think you can simply toss your furry pal a dental chew every day to handle their dental care, but pets need as much dental care as people. Toothbrushing, dental treats and chews, water and food additives, and annual—or more frequent—dental cleanings lay the foundation for good oral health. As you wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth in favor of a once- or twice-per-year dentist visit, neither should your pet. At-home dental care and professional veterinary care paired together create the best oral health care routine for your pet.

Fact or fiction: Pets need their teeth brushed daily

Fact: Ideally, you should brush your pet’s teeth after each meal, but we understand that can be challenging. Aim for brushing your pet’s teeth two to three times per week, at a minimum. Once your pet learns that toothbrushing comes with tasty toothpaste, you can quickly and easily brush their teeth each evening during a TV commercial break.

Fact or fiction: Pets are great at hiding dental disease

Fact: Pets are highly skilled at hiding signs of pain, disease, illness, or infection. All too often, a pet will not show obvious dental disease signs until they have loose or broken teeth, or a severe periodontal infection causes a tooth-root abscess. Since pets are so talented at hiding dental disease, always keep a close eye on your four-legged friend’s oral health. Watch for the following dental disease signs:

  • Brown, yellow, or gray tartar buildup on the teeth
  • Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Worn, loose, or missing teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Blood on chew toys
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Avoiding hard food and treats

Keep in mind that most pets will have a normal appetite until their dental disease is severe, so judge their oral health on earlier disease signs, like inflamed gums and tartar accumulation. 

Fact or fiction: Dental disease affects only senior pets

Fiction: While older pets often develop age-related conditions, dental disease can affect any pet of any age. In fact, most pets—almost 90%—have some form of dental disease, with 70% of cats and 80% of dogs affected by age 2. This shocking statistic, and the fact that the disease does not discriminate among age, breed, species, or gender, makes dental disease the most common condition that affects pets. However, certain breeds, such as toy and small breeds, flat-faced pets, and sighthounds, are more at risk for periodontal problems, particularly when they are young. These groups include Chihuahuas, Yorkies, dachshunds, pugs, bulldogs, greyhounds, and Persian cats.

Fact or fiction: “Doggy breath” is normal for pets

Fiction: The terms doggy and tuna breath have made halitosis normal for pets, but your furry pal shouldn’t have much of an odor to their mouth, and their breath should not knock you over when they lean in for a kiss or pant in your face. Because oral bacteria accumulate and can begin to create an odor only hours after your pet eats, bad breath is one of the first dental disease signs that pet owners notice.

If your pet hasn’t had an oral health exam recently, now is the time to evaluate their teeth and mouth. Regular, proactive dental care is the cornerstone to your pet’s overall health and wellbeing, so contact your Premier Pet Hospital team to schedule an appointment.