Pets need dental care too. Give your pet a reason to smile

Pets need dental care too. Give your pet a reason to smile

For the last 25 years, “pets need dental care too” has been the February mantra in Veterinary clinics around the world.

One of the awesome changes in my profession is the improved education and technology surrounding dental care. The ability to safely anesthetize patients, obtain digital dental x-rays, clean/polish teeth, do extractions with little or no pain – these are commonplace now and were not a few decades ago.

The incidence of dental disease is high in our pets: over 75% of pets over 3 years old! Certain pets are more prone to dental disease and these include toy/small dogs, brachycephalic (short nosed) dogs and cats, seniors and pets with compromised immune systems.

While we have advanced in our ability to clean teeth, the condition often recurs due to a lack of ongoing home dental care. If left untreated, oral disease can cause pain, sores, tooth loss and infection that can spread to other organs and overall decreased quality of life.

The main complaint we hear is “his breath stinks” but it’s so much more than that, if only they could talk! Pets NEED their teeth brushed with pet toothpaste, daily. They have over 500 kinds of bacteria in their mouth and eat/lick all kinds of gross things. The plaque/bacteria film forms on teeth every time they eat and it will harden and turn into calculus in just a few days.

I understand that it’s hard to start a new routine and many say I live in a veterinary fantasy bubble but it’s not that difficult especially if you start when they are young. Go slowly and make it a part of the daily routine. Even older dogs can be trained to accept or even enjoy the new attention. If you cannot brush, look for add-on products having the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VORC) seal of approval. These include chews, wipes, rinses and dental diets.

Things NOT to do:

  • Do NOT use human toothpaste since it can be toxic if swallowed.
  • Do NOT try to start dental care when your pet already has advanced dental disease/pain. Go to your vet!
  • Avoid any dental care harder than a tooth. NO bones, horns, hooves, antlers. They can and will break your pet’s teeth. They are not safe or effective for dental care.
  • Do NOT have a groomer brush your pets’ teeth (unless they are coming to your house to do it every day!).
  • Do NOT buy into “anesthesia free” dental care. It cannot be done safely or correctly.

And remember, your pet’s smile is as important your own! Happy brushing!

Dr. Lauren Smith is a veterinarian at Hart Road Animal Hospital located at 16400 SW Hart Rd, Beaverton. Contact her at 503-591-5282 or visit