Dental detail for pets

Patty Khuly, DVM
May 26, 2009
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I get lots of questions on pet dentistry. That’s why I’ve devised a brief Q&A session based on these common queries. So without any further ado...

Q. Why should my pet get her teeth cleaned?

Periodontal disease has been demonstrated to lead to difficult-to-identify pain, tooth loss (more pain), tooth root abscesses (even more pain), heart valve infections, kidney and liver disease and is correlated with a shorter lifespan in both pets and humans. ‘Nuff said. 

Q. Is anesthesia really necessary?

Oh, yeah. Anesthesia-free dentistry may be all the rage where you live, but you should know it has serious drawbacks. Check out the link, above, for more info.

Q. How often should my pet’s teeth be professionally cleaned? 

Once a year is the standard recommendation for high-quality veterinary care, but some pets can get away with less if they are given plenty of chew toys and their teeth are brushed regularly (at least a couple of times a week). Be aware that some pets, especially small breeds are more predisposed to dental disease and may require even more frequent cleanings. Prevention is everything when it comes to teeth. 

Q. Is it different for dogs and cats?

Not so much, though small and toy breed dogs, as a group, are treated especially carefully when it comes to dental disease. Their predisposition to periodontal disease is legendary. Cats with certain diseases, like FIV, can also suffer greater periodontal challenges. 

Q. What happens if I don’t have my pet’s teeth cleaned?

Refer to the PAIN and other consequences discussed in question #1. 

Q. But isn't it expensive?

Brushing is a whole lot cheaper, I'll agree. But lots of short procedures are so much more cost-effective than one big one should your pet's entire mouth succumb in one fell swoop. Here's a blog post on what it costs.

Q. What if my pet’s too old for anesthesia?

Your pet’s not too old. but he or she may be too sick for the anesthesia that comes with dentistry––a totally different matter altogether. As long as your veterinarian has taken cautionary steps to ensure your pet is in good shape and receives appropriate anesthetic concessions for his age and/or conditions––it’s quite safe...really. 


Oh, and don't forget to email me ([email protected]) the topics you’d most like to hear about––medical, money, ethical or otherwise––and prepare yourself for my opinionated answers.

Dr. Patty Khuly