An Ounce of Prevention: The Basics of Pet Dental Care

smiling dog

Most of us are not exactly excited about looking into our pet’s mouths (I only see 2 teeth – the fangs!). But when it comes to pet dental care, the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true. It has been reported that by 3 years of age, 85% of cats and dogs have some form of dental disease. Felton Veterinary Hospital is here to give you the basics of this common but preventable problem.


First, the true nitty gritty. You brush your teeth twice a day (right?) and still visit your dentist for a cleaning twice a year. Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed or saw the dentist! It’s true that our pets’ teeth don’t have to look picture perfect, but keeping their teeth and gums clean and healthy can be one of the most beneficial things you can do as a pet owner to keep them happy and healthy for longer.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form plaque, which, left unchecked, accumulates along the gum line and then causes inflammation called gingivitis. Plaque hardens into tartar along the gum line, but the real problems start when bacteria travel below the gum line.


When that occurs, inflammation and infection can affect the internal structures of the tooth, root, and even the bone beneath. Periodontal disease in its more severe stages can cause tooth fracture or loss. Unfortunately if periodontal disease is left untreated, bacteria can also find its way into the pet’s blood stream and can affect the heart, liver and kidneys, while making diseases such as diabetes harder to manage. Sadly, periodontal disease has been linked to a shorter life span for our pets.

What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?

Like people, pets as individuals have different signs of disease based on age, temperament, breed, and overall general health. Although you may hear it often, a pet has to have extreme dental disease in order to refuse to eat. It’s just not that common! Earlier and more common signs of periodontal disease include:


  • Bad breath
  • Red or bleeding gums
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty chewing (which may look like messy eating)
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Swollen or recessed gums

How is Periodontal Disease Prevented?

Luckily, periodontal disease is preventable. The very best way to prevent it is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. We know, we can see the collective eye roll. But before you give us the total brush off (ahem!), hear us out. There are all sorts of fancy toothbrushes out there, but in reality the most important thing is that the brushing happens. So we are all for making it simple. We can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth, and it can be with a regular pet toothbrush, finger brush, or even by using your finger wrapped with gauze (assuming this would be safe to do with your pet).


Of course starting early with your puppy or kitten can get them used to brushing early in life, and can therefore become a ho-hum daily process for them. There are some (not all!) dental chews, diets (such as Hills Dental Diet T/D), washes, and treats that can help too. Your veterinarian may recommend one of these as an addition to your at home dental program. But, there really is no substitute for brushing!

Dental Treatment

The frequency of the need for professional dental cleanings will be based on your pet’s age, breed, stage of dental disease, and overall general health. Most pets need a cleaning every 3-4 years. During a dental cleaning under anesthesia, your pet’s entire mouth will be effectively evaluated. Their teeth and gums will be assessed, and problem areas will be recorded.  Any teeth that cannot be saved will be removed, with your permission. The teeth will be cleaned above and below the gum line, where periodontal disease does it’s dirty work. And, your pet’s teeth will be given a polish to prevent future plaque buildup.

A Word About Anesthesia

Many clients are worried about anesthetic risk. It’s the single most common reason that pet owners put off preventive dental cleanings for their pets. But thanks to advancements in anesthesiology, we have made this procedure safer than ever. It’s true there is a risk with any anesthesia, but if you’re concerned, talk to us and we can show you how we’ve made anesthesia as safe as possible for your beloved friend – less than 0.1% of patients seen at Felton Veterinary Hospital have anesthetic complications!

An Ounce of Prevention

Remember that we started with this old adage? We hope you see now how true it is, with pet dental care. For more information or if you have questions, give us a call. We’re always happy to answer questions about your pet’s health and happiness.

In With the New: New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Owners

cat & dog resting

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions yet? 2017 has wound down, and with 2018 just beginning it’s a great time to look ahead and think about what we want to do differently this year. Maybe you want to eat better, hit the gym more frequently, and enjoy life more? Well, why not include your pet in some of your new year’s resolutions? Not sure where to start? The team at Felton Veterinary Hospital has you covered. Below are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners, to get the New Year started off right for your pet.


Feed the Best Quality Diet You Can

Is one of your resolutions to eat better? Our pets are no different! Feeding a high quality, balanced diet can do so much to lengthen their lives and help keep them healthy and feeling great. There are so many diet options out there, but each pet is an individual. So, talk to us about your pet’s nutrition needs at your next preventive care appointment.


Extra credit: Measure your pet’s food each and every time you feed, to prevent unwanted weight gain. Ask us for a free pet food measuring cup!


Establish a Daily Grooming Routine

Not every dog and cat needs a daily brushing (although some do!), but establishing a daily rub down or brushing has many benefits. Of course, one is that removing loose hair means fewer hairballs across your living room floor!


But grooming has other benefits too. During these daily sessions, you’ll become familiar with your pet’s body, and any lumps, bumps, or changes will be more easily noticed. The sooner you can have your veterinarian check things out, the sooner action can be taken, and early detection of disease can often mean a better prognosis.


Stay on Track with Preventive Care

The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is absolutely true in veterinary medicine. At Felton Veterinary Hospital, preventive care is tailored to the individual pet, but our preventive care exam will include discussion with you about the following:


  • Comprehensive, nose-to-tail physical exam
  • Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention
  • Early detection diagnostic tests as warranted by your pet’s age and condition
  • Dental health grading, oral health and regular teeth brushing
  • Body condition scoring and nutrition


Make sure to schedule your pet’s annual or biannual preventive care exam. And, January is a great time to also schedule your pet’s monthly preventives in your iCal, or whatever calendar system you use. It’s so easy to set reminders nowadays, that keeping track of your pet’s monthly dose of flea, tick, and heartworm preventive is literally push button. It might feel like an investment, but keeping up to date on preventive care can save you money in the long run.


Update their tags

Unfortunately pets do get lost. If you have moved or changed phone numbers, take the time to update your pet’s tags with your current contact information. Make sure your pet’s microchip is registered with the correct information as well. A microchip is the single best way to ensure a reunion with you if your pet is ever lost, but only if the registration information is accurate!


Carve Out Time to Play

Play is so important for all of us! Kittens and puppies as well as adult dogs and cats thrive on daily play, and there are so many ways to do that in our area. Why not teach your dog a new trick, or combine your workout routine? Cats can also learn new tricks and thrive on new and fun toys and games. Get creative, and see how good it makes you feel to play, too!


So, there you have them – our top ideas for New Year’s resolutions for pet owners. And these goals aren’t just good for your pets – strengthening the bond between you is good for you, too. If you have any questions or want more ideas, give us a call. We’re always ready to help you keep your pet healthy and happy!

Happy New Year, and cheers!