• Pet Gazette

Dental health critical for pets

Updated: Mar 10

by Michelle Dunleavy, DVM



More than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have periodontal disease by the age of three. Dental health affects the overall health of pets. Dental disease can cause bad breath, red, swollen or bleeding gums, pain and weight loss. It can also cause even more serious issues when left untreated for a long time. Pets can develop tooth root abscesses and bacteria can enter the bloodstream which can damage the kidneys, heart and liver.


Indications of dental disease include bad breath, decrease in appetite, drooling, dropping food, difficulty eating and bleeding gums. Pets sometimes hide pain, so it is very important to have an exam by a veterinarian who can recommend any necessary treatments.


Tartar accumulates and becomes so hardened it takes a professional cleaning to remove. Anesthesia is administered and every tooth is scaled, checked for health and polished. We understand how scary it is for owners regarding anesthesia, so we do everything we can to limit the risk of any complications. We do an exam and bloodwork beforehand to make sure the patient is healthy. We place an IV catheter so fluids can be given, and medications can be administered quickly, and we monitor vital signs closely. We often hear how senior pets seem young again after dental cleanings. When dental disease is left untreated over a long period of time, pets can gradually deteriorate, and owners may attribute symptoms to “old age.”


There are many products that can help maintain good oral health after a dental cleaning, but it is wise to check with your veterinarian before using them. If your pet already has severe dental disease, items such as dental diets, water additives and chews will most likely not help and could potentially cause your pet more pain. Hard bones or antlers can result in broken teeth and certain rawhides can cause a variety of issues, including choking and blockages, intestinal irritation and bacteria contamination. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (www.vohc.org) lists accepted dental products.


With regular dental care many good things happen. Pets live much longer, are pain free and avoid losing teeth. Pets are a part of our family and it is our passion and our goal to ensure they are happy and healthy.


Michelle Dunleavy, DVM practices with Asheville Veterinary Associates.

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