How Can I Recognize Dental Problems in My Pet?

Pet ownership is a responsibility that extends beyond feeding and daily care routines. A fundamental part of ensuring our pet’s health involves keeping track of their oral health. Most pet owners do not realize that pets can encounter dental problems similar to humans. Recognizing potential dental issues in your pet is crucial to tackle them promptly and prevent severe complications.

Signs of Dental Problems in Pets

Just like humans, pets also require oral hygiene care to stay healthy. Ignoring or delaying dental care can lead to severe health issues in animals, including dental diseases like periodontitis caused by plaque buildup. Here are some of the common signs of your pet’s dental problems:

  • Persistent Bad Breath (Halitosis): Bad breath is one of the most noticeable signs of dental issues in pets. It is often caused by the accumulation of bacteria and food particles in the mouth, leading to the formation of plaque and tartar. If left untreated, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and progress to more severe periodontal disease, leading to tooth loss and even affecting other organs.
  • Excessive Drooling (Hypersalivation): While some drooling is normal for certain breeds, excessive drooling can cause concern. It may indicate that your pet is experiencing oral pain, discomfort, or difficulty swallowing due to dental problems. This could result from gum disease, tooth decay, or oral infections.
  • Difficulty Eating (Dysphagia): Pets with dental issues may find it painful to chew, especially hard or crunchy food. As a result, they may exhibit difficulty eating, preferring softer food, or showing reduced appetite. Over time, this can lead to weight loss and nutritional deficiencies.
  • Changes in Chewing Habits: Dental problems can affect your pet’s chewing habits. They may favor one side of the mouth while chewing, avoid certain types of food, or experience discomfort when chewing on complex objects or toys.
  • Dropping Food: Dental pain or loose teeth can make it challenging for your pet to keep food in their mouth. If you notice your pet dropping food while eating, it could be a sign that they are experiencing oral discomfort.
  • Pawing at the Mouth: Pets may paw at their mouth or face if they are experiencing oral discomfort or pain. This behavior can be their way of trying to alleviate the discomfort they are feeling.
  • Red and Inflamed Gums (Gingivitis): Gingivitis is a common dental problem in pets, characterized by inflamed and reddened gums. It occurs due to the accumulation of plaque and bacteria along the gumline. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which can cause irreversible damage to the teeth and supporting structures.
  • Bleeding from the Mouth: Bleeding from the mouth can result from gum disease, dental trauma, or other oral health issues. If you notice blood in your pet’s saliva or on their chew toys, it’s crucial to have them examined by a veterinarian.
  • Swelling or Lumps in the Mouth: Any swelling or abnormal lumps in or around the mouth should be taken seriously and checked by a veterinarian promptly. These could indicate dental problems or other health issues, including oral tumors or abscesses.
  • Dental Calculus (Tartar): Dental calculus, commonly known as tartar, is a hardened deposit that forms on the teeth when plaque mineralizes. Tartar provides an ideal environment for bacterial growth, contributing to gum disease and dental decay.
  • Loose or Broken Teeth: Loose or broken teeth may result from advanced dental disease, dental trauma, or other health problems. If your pet has loose or broken teeth, seeking veterinary attention to address the underlying issue and alleviate any pain or discomfort is essential.
  • Changes in Behavior: Pets experiencing oral pain or discomfort may show changes in behavior. They may become more irritable, avoid interaction, or show signs of aggression when approached near their mouth area.
  • Weight Loss: Dental pain or difficulty eating can lead to decreased appetite, resulting in weight loss. If you notice your pet losing weight and suspect dental problems, it’s crucial to address the issue promptly to ensure they receive proper nutrition.
  • Pawing at the Face: If your pet is constantly pawing at their face or mouth area, it could be a sign that they are trying to alleviate oral discomfort or pain.
  • Excessive Head Shaking: Frequent head shaking can be a sign of pain or irritation in the ears or mouth. Dental issues, such as infections, can cause referred pain to the ears, leading to head shaking.

Occasionally, recurrent dental problems could hint toward deeper systemic health issues. An experienced dog internist vet is a specialist in internal medicine who can assess whether an underlying medical condition contributes to dental issues. The internist vet can perform comprehensive diagnostic testing and develop a treatment plan tailored to your pet’s needs.

Treating Pet Dental Issues

Treating pet dental problems involves various approaches depending on the severity of the issue. It’s essential to address dental problems promptly to prevent further complications and maintain your pet’s overall health. Here are some common treatments for dog dental issues:

  • Professional Dental Cleaning: Regular professional dog dental cleaning performed by a veterinarian is crucial for maintaining good oral health. During the procedure, your dog will be placed under anesthesia to ensure thorough cleaning of their teeth, including scaling to remove tartar and plaque buildup. This is typically done annually or more frequently if necessary.
  • Extractions: In cases where the dental disease has progressed significantly, some teeth may need to be extracted to alleviate pain and prevent the further spread of infection. Your veterinarian will determine which teeth need to be extracted and perform the procedure under anesthesia.
  • Oral Surgery: In more severe cases, oral surgery may be necessary to treat specific dental conditions or remove oral tumors or abscesses. In cases where surgery is needed, a professional animal surgeon must be consulted. Veterinary surgeons have the expert knowledge and skills to perform complex procedures and provide the care your pet needs for a successful recovery.
  • Pain Management: If your dog is experiencing dental pain or discomfort, your veterinarian may prescribe pain medication to help manage their discomfort during treatment and recovery.
  • Antibiotics: In cases of advanced dental disease or infections, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to address the underlying infection and promote healing.
  • Dental Homecare: Your veterinarian may recommend dental homecare routines to maintain your dog’s oral health. This may include regularly brushing your dog’s teeth, providing dental treats or toys, or using oral rinses or gels specifically formulated for dogs.
  • Dietary Changes: Feeding your dog a diet that supports dental health, such as dental-specific kibble or chews, can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
  • Regular Check-ups: Regular veterinary check-ups, including dental evaluations, are essential for early detection of dental issues. Your veterinarian can identify problems early and recommend appropriate treatment.
  • Educating Pet Owners: Your veterinarian may provide education on proper dental care for your dog, including demonstrating toothbrushing techniques and recommending suitable dental products.

It’s crucial to remember that prevention is better than cure for dental problems in dogs. Regular dental check-ups, professional cleanings, and at-home dental care can significantly reduce the risk of dental issues and keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy.


Remember, prevention goes a long way. Regular checks, maintaining a proper diet, providing chew toys that can help clean their teeth, professional dental cleaning, and brushing your pet’s teeth regularly with pet-friendly toothpaste can help prevent dental problems. Recognizing dental problems in your pet is only the first step. Aside from regular home care, professional dental care and treatment may be required. You don’t have to go on this journey alone; expert help is available.