Dental Health for Pets

Why is dental health important?

Like us, your pets need regular dental care to keep their teeth in the best possible condition. The rate and amount of plaque which forms on a pet’s teeth is determined by genetic predisposition even more than diet.  Some breeds and certain individuals are especially prone to early periodontal disease, but all pets develop dental tartar eventually.

Plaque is made of food debris and bacteria, and if not cleaned off in this soft stage, will harden into dental tartar/calculus. The calculus is like cement, holding bacteria against the teeth, leading to an infection of the gums called gingivitis. As gingivitis worsens, it can result in infection of the periodontal ligament, tooth roots, and surrounding bone. Left unchecked, these lead to tooth loss, bone infection and a very painful and potentially debilitating condition for your pet.

Dental home care can significantly reduce the accumulation of dental calculus and may decrease the frequency and/or severity of necessary dental cleanings.  Small breed dogs and Greyhounds are at particular risk for extensive calculus accumulation and home care is especially important for them.

How do I take care of my pets teeth?

There are multiple approaches to providing dental home care. For pets at high risk for dental disease, we recommend that more than one strategy be used.


Finger brushes, pet specific tooth brushes or even children’s soft bristled brushes can be used along with an enzymatic toothpaste. Human toothpastes are not recommended.  Pet’s teeth need to be brushed 1-2 times daily to derive maximum benefit. If they are not brushed at least 3 times per week the pet derives little benefit from brushing.  Using enzymatic toothpaste as a treat and then gradually increasing your pet’s comfort level with having a tooth-brush or your fingers in their mouth can help train them to accept regular brushing. Providing a treat after brushing (such as a chew or their regular meal) can also help reinforce the behavior.

Dental Chews:

In order for a chew to be effective, your pet needs to work on it for at least 5-10 minutes. Although not as effective as brushing it can help to decrease bacteria in the mouth and help clean the teeth.  Hard plastic chew toys should be avoided as they can cause tooth damage. Caution must be used with rawhides and bones as both can lead to intestinal obstructions and other GI problems if not chewed completely.

 T/D Diet:

This is a special diet made by Hills Science Diet pet food company. It can be given as a main diet or as an after-meal treat. The structure of the kibble forms a mesh that helps to clean teeth as it is chewed.

Water Additives:

The product we recommend and carry is called AquaDent.  It has a dilute antibacterial ingredient called xylitol to help decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Many owners report an improvement in their pet’s breath with its use and it can definitely decrease the rate of calculus accumulation, especially in cats. ***Xylitol is extremely toxic to pets when given in large amounts, such as the concentration found in many sugarless chewing gums. However, at the low levels in these products it is reported to be safe for dogs and cats.

October (2010) is Dental Health Month at Daniel Island Animal Hospital. $30 off dental cleanings and 10% off dental products. Call for an appointment - space is limited!