3 Signs Your Pet Needs Dental Care

There are some important reasons why our veterinary team recommends dental cleanings when they examine certain pets’ mouths. Dental health AND comfort is as important to our pets as it is to us. YES, we have seen some of our four-legged friends chew on and eat some pretty disgusting things, but that does not mean that there are no repercussions to these activities!

Three of the things our team look for if they are examining a pet’s mouth are:

Calculus (tartar) build up

Calculus builds up on teeth as a result of minerals in the saliva combining with plaque/food residue on the teeth to produce a hardened layer on the teeth. This layer, if allowed to build up can irritate the gums and begin to push under the gum line.

As the bacteria proliferate and produce more calculus, the gums and bones around the teeth can start to recede. It does not take long before these teeth are unable to be saved and must be extracted for the comfort and well being of the pet. This can be an expensive process. It is better to bring these pets in for routine cleanings of the calculus.


Teeth have blood and nerve supply via the pulp cavity. If the blood vessels and nerves are exposed or damaged, this results in pain and creates a pathway for bacteria to enter the blood stream. Aggressive chewing on hard substances or impact injuries can cause fracture of the teeth exposing the pulp cavity of the tooth. These same things can obstruct blood flow to the tooth or damage the pulp cavity. If this happens, the tooth “dies.”

Bleeding of gums/teeth

Aggressive chewing on a toy can cause gums to bleed temporarily, but so can certain dental conditions. If bleeding around the gum line is noticed frequently, it should be investigated. Cats, more often than dogs, can be affected by lesions that dissolve the layers of the tooth exposing the pulp cavity. These lesions are painful. The teeth are usually extracted for the comfort of the pet.

All of the above signs are easy for the owner to see in their pet’s mouth at home.  Sometimes convincing pets to allow their mouths to be checked is a challenge. The good news is that it can be done in most cases. There are three steps below. Each can be done for a few minutes each day. When the pet can sit calmly while the owner performs one step, the next one can be tried.

  • Start by touching the pet’s head in an unfamiliar way (not petting). Move the head left and right, up and down.
  • Hold/rub the pet’s muzzle.
  • Pick up the pet’s lips. Run fingers under the lips exposing the teeth.

Any concerns about a pet’s dental health can be addressed by one of our veterinary team. Happy dental exploring!

Written by: Tara, RVT