Pets need proper oral cleaning and care to keep their mouths healthy. Otherwise, periodontal disease can set in, and that is serious business. It’s a common problem among pets, especially older ones. It’s also largely preventable.

The term periodontal disease covers several stages of dental and oral disease. The mildest are plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth and swollen gums. The most severe include teeth and bone loss and other complications throughout the body.

Periodontal disease begins when plaque, a film created by bacteria and food, forms on the teeth. Plaque that builds up at and under the gum line causes gingivitis, which is red, swollen, and often painful gum tissue. On the teeth, plaque hardens and becomes tartar.

Eventually, unchecked plaque and tartar lead to tooth decay and loss, gum disease, and bone loss. Bacteria can also enter the blood stream and cause trouble in other parts of the body. It can lead to deadly heart and liver disease.

The best ways to keep pets’ chompers clean and disease-free are regular at-home brushings and professional cleanings.


Brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth can be tricky. However, it’s not impossible. Daily brushings are best, but even weekly ones can make a difference.

Create a routine as early as possible. Use teeth brushing kits designed specifically for pets. Always be gentle and calm. Start with a little brushing at a time and build up from there. Don’t force it; this only creates a negative experience and can ruin any chance of future cooperation.

Whether or not you successfully brush your pet’s teeth, always be on the lookout for signs of inflammation or disease. Look for yellow build up and swollen or red gums.

Why Do Your Pets Need Professional Cleanings Even if You Brush Their Teeth?

Even if your pet allows you to do a great job brushing, exams and cleanings by a veterinarian are necessary. Regular brushing is important to get all the surface plaque off and prevent tartar formation, but it doesn’t do enough to get into other areas.

Plaque settles in between teeth and under the gum line. Additionally, any plaque missed by brushing forms into hard tartar, which brushing can’t remove. That’s where professional cleanings in our office come in. We get all that nasty bacteria film and tartar out from the under the gum line and from in between teeth.

We also perform exams that show us any underlying problems and potential problems that happen where the eyes can’t see. Radiographs allow us to see the condition of the jawbones and the teeth below the gums.

As with human mouths, keeping pets’ mouths clean isn’t just about pretty teeth and sweet breath. It’s about making sure their gums and teeth work and feel great. It also helps keep their bodies healthy and disease-free. If you brush your pet’s teeth, keep it up. If you don’t, then gather your patience and try it. No matter what, watch your pet’s mouth for signs of discomfort and disease.

February is National Pet Oral/Dental Health month, everyday at Sandia Animal Clinic we care about your pets teeth.  Call us today at 505-299-9533 to schedule your pet’s exam and cleaning. You can also connect with us on our Facebook page.

For further reading, check out our post about dental anesthesia.

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