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Breed & Health Resources

5 Ways to Know if Your Dog Needs a Dental Cleaning


It has been estimated that 85% of all animals seen at a vet’s office have dental disease.  I would go further and say 40% of dogs have bad dental disease.  It always surprises me at the shock in people’s faces when I pull up their pet’s lip and…voila….a mass of dental mayhem.   So I have decided to list the top five ways to know if your dog needs a dental.

5. Your Pet Might Need a Dental if... Their Breath Smells Like a Sewer

It is amazing to me the smell that can come from a cat’s or dog’s mouth.  I am also shocked at the amount of stench people can become accustomed to.  The bacteria and plaque that form on the teeth cause gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and the breakdown of the bacteria and debris causes the intense smell.  Just let your dog give you a smooch and you will know what I mean.

4. Your Pet Might Need a Dental if... You Notice Blood on Their Chew Toys

Dogs and cats can deal with dental pain. Problems that would send us screaming to our dentist, pet take in stride.  Now don’t think for a minute that they are not in pain.  They have the same nerves and pain receptors that we have.  They just react to pain in different ways.  This is probably the second most common reasons owners seek dental treatment.  This can be from gingivitis and infection of the mouth, called stomatitis, or from abscessed teeth. 

3. Your Pet Might Need a Dental If... They Don’t Want to Eat Dry Food, but Will Eat Soft Food

Anyone who has had a root canal knows how bad a root access can hurt.  The thought of biting down one something hard makes your skin crawl.  Same goes for your pet.  So if your dog or cat is eating gingerly on one side of the mouth or other, time to get it checked out. 

2. Your Pet Might Need a Dental If... You Look Under Their Lip and See Tarter and Gingivitis

I always recommend my clients to get in the habit of routinely looking at their pet’s teeth and gums.  Better yet, when they are brushing their pet’s teeth, they can gauge how effective their brushing technique is.

1. Your Pet Might Need a Dental If... Your Vet Tells You So!

Each time you take your pet to the vet (which I am sure you do at least yearly) your vet should exam the teeth and mouth.  Dogs and cats are such good hiders of diseases, so it is very important to have them looked at by your vet, not only for dental disease, but all the other preventable or treatable conditions.

Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie, and two cats Franklin and Speeder. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and enjoys travel and photography.

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