Downeast Dog News

February is Veterinary Dental Month

By Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH | Feb 01, 2020

Q. I have a small dog I adopted from the shelter. Her teeth are horrible. What are my options?

A. Any dog can have bad teeth. Certain breeds have more dental disease than others. What you are feeding, and if your dog is a chewer or not, will play a role in her dental hygiene.

The first task you need to do with your pup is to have your veterinarian evaluate her mouth. Your veterinarian will be looking for signs of pain, infection, and periodontal disease. Unlike cats, who have cavities, dogs tend to have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease causes the gums to form pockets around the teeth so food and debris can get stuck in there. As the pockets become inflamed and infected, the gums continue to recede and become inflamed. This receding will expose the roots of the teeth. This opens the tooth to become infected or abscessed. Broken teeth can also lead to abscesses, where the face swells. These teeth are not healthy and are usually removed.

If your dog is chewing on one side of her mouth, there is a problem. Sometimes we can’t see the problem just by looking at the teeth. Radiographs will give a detailed view of the roots of your dog’s teeth. Many veterinary clinics have dental X-rays. These radiographs are very helpful in giving the best knowledge of your dog’s tooth health.

Just because the tooth is covered in tartar does not necessarily mean the tooth is bad and needs to be removed. Once the tartar is removed and the tooth looks healthy, you will have a good starting place for oral hygiene.

There are several products on the market for dental health from enzymes in water, tooth paste to brush her teeth, gels and powders to be applied to the teeth or added to food, and chew toys to keep the tartar off and strengthen her gums. If you are confused by all these choices, speak to your veterinarian or technician to help you out.

Just like we go to the dentist every year, your dog needs her mouth evaluated every year too. It is best to be proactive in taking care of your pup’s teeth. Brushing or wiping the teeth a few seconds a day, dental treats, dental toys, and a good diet that is lower in carbohydrates and sugars are key to a healthy mouth.

February is dental hygiene month for cats and dogs. The time is right to have your best friend’s mouth evaluated by your veterinarian.



Judith K. Herman DVM, CVH


Animal Wellness Center

Augusta, ME 04330