Preparing for Your Pet's Dental

The Disease

The most common disease of adult dogs and cats is dental or periodontal disease. Studies indicate 85% of our adult pets have some degree of periodontal disease.

This disease begins with the formation of plaque, which is a transparent adhesive fluid composed of saliva, food particles, and bacteria. Some dogs are more susceptible to periodontal disease than others. If plaque is not removed, mineral salts in saliva will precipitate and form hard dental calculus on the teeth. Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, can trap bacteria below the gum line and damage the periodontal ligament, a structure that anchors the tooth in the socket. Eventually, the bone around the teeth becomes destroyed and the teeth may loosen and fall out. In addition, the tremendous number of bacteria in the mouth can be transported through the bloodstream to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart and damage these organs.

What to Expect

Dental problems may be first noticed by you at home, or by your veterinarian when your pet is brought in for an exam. The veterinary oral examination will begin with a complete visual examination of the face, mouth and the teeth. Frequently, pets’ mouths have several different problems that need care and the veterinarian will be able to see some of these problems when your pet is examined in the appointment. Unfortunately, it is impossible to determine every problem when your pet is awake. This is because the teeth at the back of the mouth are very difficult to visualize, some pets may not allow a thorough exam of their mouth, and a dental probe must be used to determine the depth of pockets and gingival attachment around each tooth. The number of teeth that need to be extracted can only be determined when the pet is under anesthesia.


Dental cleanings require anesthesia because the teeth must be cleaned above and below the gum line. It is impossible to clean teeth below the gum line when the animal is awake. There are many safe and effective anesthetics available in veterinary medicine. The chosen anesthetic protocol is always tailored to suit the needs of the animal having the dentistry. Furthermore, anesthesia is monitored by a veterinary technician during the procedure.

Food must be withheld from your pet 12 hours prior to the anesthetic, but water is allowed. In older animals, a blood test will be performed prior to the dental to ensure the kidneys can excrete anesthetic drugs. If there is any doubt about kidney function, your pet is dehydrated, or an extensive dental cleaning with many extractions is anticipated, intravenous fluids may be recommended.

The Dental Exam Under Anesthesia

As well as being able to clean under the gum line, anesthesia allows the veterinarian and veterinary technician to thoroughly examine each tooth individually. Animals with periodontal disease often have recessed gums and/or large pockets around the teeth. If the depth of the pocket around the tooth indicates there is little to no gingival attachment, the tooth most likely has to be extracted. Fractured teeth that involve the pulp chamber of the tooth need to be removed because they become abscessed when bacteria gain access to the tooth’s root. The large premolars are commonly fractured by dogs chewing rocks or bones.

Cats are a unique species in that certain teeth may develop areas that lack enamel. These resorptive lesions on the teeth are very sensitive and even painful because the dentin inside the tooth is exposed to everything in the cat’s mouth. Often the gums around these teeth are red and inflamed. These teeth are removed to eliminate the constant source of pain.

After the Dental

If your pet had extractions, there may be dissolving stitches in the mouth and the extraction site may be tender for 5 to 7 days. We recommend feeding soft food (canned or dry dog food moistened with warm water) during this time. There will be antibiotics and pain medication to go home if dental disease was present. Please follow all directions on the medications.

Once your pet’s mouth has healed, consider implementing a long-term dental care plan to maintain a healthy mouth. This may include feeding a diet that controls plaque. There are specially formulated diets on the market (Hills Tartar diet and Medi-cal Dental Formula are two examples). Daily brushing (even twice a week) with an enzyme pet toothpaste is recommended. For those pets that may be uncooperative for brushing, special dental chews coated with dental enzyme (Enzadent chews, Virbac CET chews), and other similar dental treats (Greenies) may help.

To book a dental procedure for your pet, please call Kamloops Veterinary Clinic at 250-374-1485!