Dental disease affects more than 80% of adult cats and dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

To keep your pet healthy and smiling, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert, Jennifer Freeman, DVM, shares advice on how to take a proactive approach to your pet’s dental health.

Periodontal disease occurs when there is a buildup of plaque and tartar that causes either periodontal pockets or gum recession around the tooth. It is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs.

“It’s very important to treat periodontal disease as soon as possible because if left untreated, the infection can spread deeper into the tooth socket and could destroy the bone,” said Freeman.

“This could then lead to tooth loss, costly treatments, and could impact your pet’s heart, liver, and kidneys.” Plaque and tartar may also cause bad breath, gum inflammation and bleeding, and pain that can negatively impact your pet’s quality of life.

If you suspect your pet has dental disease, check for warning signs like bad breath and inflamed gums, as those are usually the first symptoms.

“Bad breath is usually a good indication of some sort of periodontal issue,” Freeman said.

“If you notice red gums, bleeding in the mouth or bad breath in conjunction with yellow deposits on your pet’s teeth that aren’t easily scraped away, your pet needs dental care.”

To prevent dental disease in the first place, Freeman suggests implementing a dental care routine for your pet. Once a month, examine your pet’s mouth and carefully scan the teeth and gums for any signs of dental disease. Also, implement regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian and an at-home dental care routine.

“Brushing your pet’s teeth removes the soft plaque film that forms into tartar over time,” Freeman said.

“Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specially designed for dogs or cats and aim to brush your pet’s teeth at least once a week or more often if possible.”

You can help your pup by starting dental maintenance early, but to make it a pleasant experience, wait until your puppy has their adult teeth (at or around six months old) before using a toothbrush.

Feeding your pet a teeth cleaning kibble is another great way to fight dental disease. Dental formulas for dogs and cats have ingredients that may help prevent plaque and tartar buildup, and the kibble pieces are shaped to help scrub plaque from teeth. If you’d like to treat your dog to a dental treat


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