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How to Tell If Your Pet Has a Dental Issue    

By: Dr. Al Townshend

Dental Issue Prevention

The first step in avoiding a dental issue is examining your pet’s mouth regularly. Your veterinarian will do a thorough examination of the mouth as part of its annual exam. However, catching problems early is important as dental issues can happen, if not dealt with immediately.

Exams are best when done in good light with the pet elevated on a chair or on a counter. This helps to view the entire mouth and all of the teeth. Moreover, you must be able to view both the outside and inside of the teeth and around the gum-line. Likewise, the tongue and roof of the mouth must also be checked.

Even puppies and kittens need to be examined. Similarly, there are certain congenital anomalies one should recognize early on for the best chance of correcting a problem.

Malocclusions and Orthodontics

Most teeth in dogs and cats fit together almost perfectly. So, a problem occurs when teeth do not fit together when the mouth is closed. This creates difficulty when chewing and eating. In many cases, this can be corrected if caught early.

Retained baby teeth can be a problem and have a significant effect upon the adult teeth as they try to come in. Consequently, without regular exams, many may not be aware there is a problem.

Signs your pet may have an issue:

  • Bad breath
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rubbing of the mouth
  • Swelling
  • Excess salivation (possibly with blood)

Periodontal Disease

The most common dental issue in both dogs and cats is periodontal disease. Loosely translated, periodontal disease is disease around the tooth. The most important part of that anatomy is where the tooth and gum come together.

The process begins when the wrong bacteria get under the gum and begin to form a sticky substance called plaque. Minerals deposit in the plaque form tartar, which loosens the tooth in the bone. When not caught early, a pet can lose a tooth. As with humans, tooth loss can be an uncomfortable process for pets

It is estimated that by 3 years of age, most dogs and cats will have some degree of periodontal disease.

Damaged Teeth

Dogs and cats are chewers and can damage their teeth and gums from chewing the wrong things. Broken canine teeth and chip fractures of the molars and premolars are common problems that can lead to discomfort and even loss of the tooth. Broken teeth can expose the soft dental pulp inside the tooth. This is a very painful condition and like humans, often requires a root canal in order to save the tooth


Once a tooth becomes loosened in the bone, the infection can form an abscess that requires immediate attention by a veterinarian. Antibiotics and even surgery are usually required. Removal of the affected teeth is necessary.


Pets also have some degree of frequency of oral tumors. They can involve the bones of the jaws and roof of the mouth and even the tongue and gums. They can be benign or malignant and so it is important to catch them early for the best prognosis.

As pets age, without regular dental hygiene, many pets experience pain, a lower quality of life and possibly a shortening of life.

Veterinary medicine has made huge strides in dental care for pets. Dental specialists can perform many of the procedure’s we humans have available. Like humans, regular exams and daily hygiene are essential for long term health and quality of life for our pets.

Be sure to discuss proper dental hygiene with the staff at any Pet Planet Store. Don’t forget to take advantage of the F at a Pet Planet Health location near you.


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