Dental Hygiene for Pets


February is Pet Dental Awareness Month. Schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian to have your dog or cat’s teeth cleaned.

When I was a veterinary technician in the U.S. Army, one of my favorite duties was cleaning dog teeth. Before I was a vet tech, I was unaware of dog dentistry. Having had the opportunity to learn and practice first hand, I’ve come to realize the importance of taking care of canine teeth.

Doggy breath or kitty breath is a result of poor dental hygiene. Halitosis is caused by bacteria living inside the mouth. To minimize bad breath, it is recommended to brush your companion animals’ teeth.

You can buy toothbrushes for cats and dogs. Some look like the brushes we use and some actually fit on your finger. Toothpaste is also available specifically for use with dogs and cats. To facilitate brushing, the toothpaste is usually meat flavored such as beef for dogs and fish for cats. The recommendation is to brush your pet’s teeth at least twice a week, but every day is ideal.

There are treats available to help control bad breath. If you brush your dogs’ teeth twice a week, use treats to supplement your efforts. CET Chews and Greenies are useful treats that dogs love.

One of the things I’ve learned about animal dentistry is that dogs and cats can have tartar build up on their teeth just like humans. Their gums can also become inflamed leading to dental conditions that may require surgical correction. Annual dental prophylaxis is recommended.

Similar to human dentistry, your veterinary office will use an ultrasonic scaler and other dental tools to remove calculus from your pets’ teeth. Then, they polish the teeth to smooth the surface of the teeth.

At times, your veterinarian may need to pull teeth. If this is necessary, he may prescribe antibiotics during the healing process. I’ve learned from the vets that I’ve worked with that an open tooth socket can facilitate infections in the body, in organs such as the kidneys. This is because bacteria that live in the mouth have direct access to the bloodstream via the open tooth socket. The bacteria then transports through the entire body and will eventually end up being filtered through the kidneys. This is one of the more severe reasons you should practice good dental hygiene habits with your pets. Most extractions are preventable with proper care and maintenance.

In the U.S. Army, the cost of dental prophylaxis is not much; however, this type of service is usually only available for privately owned animals in OCONUS duty stations. In CONUS locations, dental prophylaxis is available only to military working dogs. Privately owned animals will need to visit a local veterinarian for this procedure. The cost can be expensive because the procedure requires pre-anesthetics and your veterinary staff will usually maintain your pet under gas anesthesia.

You can usually find good deals during the month of February as clinics will run a Pet Dental Awareness Month promotion. So be on the lookout for ads in your area to see if you can save money. And don’t be afraid to call around for pricing to find the most cost-effective location.


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