Dog and Cat Dental Disease

Roughly 80% of dogs and cats over the age of three are going to have some level of periodontal disease. It is the most common disease we face in veterinary medicine. That fact is the main reason I have devoted a huge part of my professional development towards veterinary dentistry. It is the best way to help the most pets have healthy and pain free lives. I think veterinary dentistry is incredibly important.

Veterinary dentistry is also incredibly expensive. When things are expensive in any service industry, you can be sure that it is expensive to provide as well as to purchase. Dentistry in the veterinary world is no exception. I would love to tell you that dentistry is an elective issue and not something every pet really needs. But if I told you that having a healthy mouth was an elective issue and not something every pet really needs, would that sound reasonable? No. Your dog or cat doesn’t brush his/her teeth twice a day. Think about how your mouth feels if you fall asleep without brushing for one night. Multiply that by seven and you’ve got the typical week in the life of an average dog or cat. Here is the point where we need to understand that the disease process that causes periodontal disease in dogs and cats is not significantly different than it is in humans.

I wish I could share trade secrets about how to save money on veterinary dentistry with you. Unfortunately, there are none. What I can share with you is how you can effectively do the heavy lifting so that we have to do less when your pet does need dental work. I’ll warn you however that if you consider Mike Rowe to be a bit overbearing with the work ethic shtick, you should probably just get used to writing checks for veterinary dental care.

Brushing is the absolute king of the heap when it comes to preventing periodontal disease in dogs and cats. In order to be effective brushing needs to happen a minimum of five times weekly and is really best if it can happen twice daily. I understand, all too well that this is typically a Sisyphean task. I recommend attempting to acclimate your dog or cat to daily brushing. If it works out and is an enjoyable process for both of you, great. If not then the following methods will help some.


The kibble in dental diets have been designed to “brush” the tooth while your pet chews on the food. While these diets aren’t going to work as well as brushing does they do work very well at keeping the teeth clean. There are two different ways that you can use a dental diet:

  1. Dental diets have been formulated to meet the needs of a healthy canine with no specific dietary requirements. As a result, you can transition your pet into using the dental diet exclusively.
  2. You can add just a small amount, I usually shoot for about 1/4 of the diet coming from the dental diet. This allows your pet to continue eating the food they like while still achieving some benefit from the dental diet.



There are several dental chews on the market that have been shown to effectively reduce plaque and tartar and promote healthy stimulation of the gingiva or gum tissue. Recently a good number of options have been added to the market, so I’m not going to list them here. I will say that anything that has approval by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is going to be acceptable and there are a few out there that are equally good even if they don’t have that approval.


Finally, there are water additives that seem to help quite a bit. While there are plenty that I might be comfortable with my clients using, the only one I feel entirely comfortable recommending in writing via the internet would be Healthy Mouth it is a little bit more expensive than some of the other formulas out there but it has solid science backing it up and has agreat track record in clinical use.


Keep in mind, that even if you were to employ all 4 of these oral heath tactics successfully, your dog or cat may still need a fair amount of dental work over the course of their lives. Just like people, some dogs were just born with difficult mouths. At least with dogs we know which breeds are going to be more at risk than others.

Thanks for reading.


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