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11 Pet Dental Facts

Our pets might not smile in the same way we humans do—though some certainly seem to—but their teeth require similar care and attention. For dog and cat parents, this means keeping up with regular brushings, providing appropriate toys and chews for dental health and scheduling regular dental checkups at the vet.


These canine and feline dental health facts may inspire you to give your pet’s teeth a little extra care.

Your pet’s pearly whites are the gateway to so much more than you might imagine. Here is some detailed information to keep in mind the next time you think about skipping that teeth cleaning.

  1. Your pet’s teeth are similar to yours…in some ways. Both dogs and cats start out with a full set of baby teeth that fall out and are replaced with adult teeth, just like ours. Cats have 30 permanent adult teeth, while dogs have 42. Veterinary dentists perform many similar procedures as our own dentists, including cleanings, tooth extractions and sometimes even root canals.
  2. By age 3, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs show signs of dental disease. Besides brushing, you can help keep your pet’s teeth clean with oral rinses, specially designed toys and dental treats that are specifically formulated to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
  3. Bacteria in your pet’s mouth is about more than just bad breath. Over time, tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth can cause dental disease, which in turn can lead to additional health issues. That’s why taking some time each day to brush your pet’s teeth and gums is so important. And no matter what you’ve heard, your dog does not have a cleaner mouth than yours and it still requires cleaning!
  4. It only takes two days for dental issues to become problematic. Plaque—which can be removed with a toothbrush—can calcify and become tartar, which is not easily removed only by brushing and requires proper dental attention.
  5. Small dog breeds often have more dental issues. Partly because of the size of their teeth in relation to the size of their mouths, small dogs are more prone to dental issues.
  6. Oral health issues can appear in many different forms. Certain oral health issues can be indicators of more serious problems, like periodontal or dental disease. If you notice your pet suffering from any of the following, make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately: swollen or red gums, trouble chewing, excess drooling, ulcers or abnormal growths on the tongue or gums, loose teeth or pawing at the mouth. Sneezing and nasal discharge can also be a sign of tooth infection.
  7. Our pets are good at hiding their pain. It’s common for animals to disguise the fact that they are in pain. Since this is the case, it’s extra important that we pay attention to the warning signs of potential oral health issues.
  8. Some items that dogs love could actually harm their teeth. Just because our dogs like chewing on hard items doesn’t mean they should. Things like ice cubes and bones, for example, could break their teeth. If they are chewing on one of these items, be sure to supervise them and remove the item if anything seems amiss.
  9. It’s important to use dental products specifically made for our pets. Ingredients intended for humans—the fluoride in some toothpastes, for example—can upset our pets’ stomachs. Instead, opt for toothbrushes and toothpastes that are formulated and made specifically for pets. 
  10. Squirmy pets cause pet parents to give up on dental regimens. In a study by Petco, 38% of pet parents who don’t have a dental regimen for their pet claim it’s because it’s too hard to keep their pet still. At-home dental cleanings can require a bit of practice and patience, but starting early and sticking to it can get your pet more used to the task.
  11. Your pet’s food plays a roll in their overall dental health. While many veterinarians who specialize in dental care agree that proper brushing and veterinary care are the two primary factors of good pet dental health, your pet’s food may also play a role in the condition of their mouth and teeth. Just like human food, ingredients and foods high in carbohydrates turn to sugars and speed up the process of decay. Fortunately, your pet’s veterinarian can consider their specific dietary needs and recommend a brand or formula of food that’s best for all of your pet’s health concerns, including their dental needs. Additionally, certain treats specialize in helping take care of your pet's oral health.

The best method of care for your pet’s teeth is a preventive plan that includes daily care, the proper treats and routine check-ins with your veterinarian. Petco has all the products you need to properly care for your dog or your cat’s teeth, and in-store dental care includes teeth-brushing and breath refresh.

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