Most Common Dental Problems in Cats and Dogs: What to Look For and How to Prevent Them

Ensuring the dental health of our beloved pets is just as important as taking care of our own teeth. After all, your cat or dog isn’t going to brush their teeth themselves, right? Proper dental care prevents various painful and potentially dangerous oral ailments that can plague your pets. This article will discuss the most common dental problems in cats and dogs, what symptoms to look for, and how to prevent these issues to ensure your furry friends live a long and healthy life. 

Most Common Dental Problems in Cats and Dogs

Periodontal Disease

Arguably the most common dental issue for both cats and dogs is periodontal disease, which results from the build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Over time, it can inflame the gums, cause bad breath, and result in tooth loss. Some signs to watch for include: 

  • Bad breath 
  • Difficulty eating 
  • Bleeding gums 
  • Loose or missing teeth 

To diagnose periodontal disease, your veterinarian will need to perform a thorough dental examination. Treatment options depend on the severity of the disease and may include dental cleanings, scaling and root planing, or even tooth extractions.

Tartar Buildup

While it’s normal for some plaque to exist on your pet’s teeth, if left unchecked, plaque can harden into tartar, which slowly deteriorates the teeth and gums. Tartar buildup is a major contributor to periodontal disease and can result in gingivitis and tooth loss. Signs of tartar buildup are: 

  • Yellow or brown stains on the teeth 
  • Swollen or red gums 
  • Halitosis (bad breath) 

To combat tartar buildup, schedule regular dental cleanings for your pet and engage in home dental care, such as brushing their teeth and providing dental treats. **

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is less common in pets than in humans due to differences in their diets. However, it can still occur and often leads to various dental issues. Sugar from food sticks to the surface of the teeth, producing acid that erodes the enamel. Signs of tooth decay in your pets include: 

  • Discolored teeth 
  • Tooth fracture or breakage 
  • Pain or sensitivity when eating 

If you suspect tooth decay, consult your veterinarian, who may prescribe a special diet or dental care regimen to help prevent further damage.


Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, typically caused by the bacteria found in plaque and tartar. Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss. Symptoms to look for include: 

  • Red, swollen gums 
  • Bad breath 
  • Receding gum line 

Preventing gingivitis involves regular dental cleanings and routine home dental care, such as daily tooth brushing.

Veterinary Dental Procedures

Dental Prophylaxis

Dental prophylaxis is a professional dental cleaning performed by a veterinarian to maintain your pet’s oral health. During this procedure, the vet will remove any plaque and tartar buildup, polish your pet’s teeth, and check for signs of periodontal disease. Dental prophylaxis is essential for keeping your pet’s oral health in check.

Dental X-Rays

Dental x-rays play a vital role in your pet’s dental care since they reveal what’s happening beneath the gum line. Assessing your pet’s health below the surface helps your vet identify and address any potential issues, such as tooth root abscesses before they become severe problems. 

Tooth Extractions

Your veterinarian may recommend tooth extractions if your pet is suffering from severe dental issues, such as advanced periodontal disease, tooth decay, or fractured teeth. The process involves removing the affected tooth, suturing the gum tissue, and providing appropriate pain management. Tooth extractions are typically performed under general anesthesia to ensure your pet’s comfort.


Good oral health is essential for your pet’s well-being. Regular check-ups and home dental care play a significant part in preventing dental issues. To ensure the best care for your pet, learn more about dentistry and dental surgery from your veterinarian or pet care specialist.

How to Prevent Dental Problems in Cats and Dogs

Regular Dental Check-ups

Just like humans, pets should receive regular dental check-ups. A veterinarian should examine your pet’s teeth and gums at least once a year, or more often for pets with a history of dental issues. Such visits ensure potential problems are caught early, allowing for appropriate treatment.

Dental health is essential for all pets, not just cats and dogs. Exotic pet care involves understanding and addressing the dental needs of animals like reptiles, rabbits, and birds. Like other animals, exotic pets require routine dental check-ups and intervention when necessary.

Home Dental Care

Consistent home dental care is crucial to your pet’s dental health. Start by introducing tooth brushing to your pet using a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets. Make it an enjoyable experience by using flavored toothpaste and positive reinforcement.

Dental Chews and Treats

Dental chews and treats can help maintain your pet’s oral health between cleanings. They work by mechanically removing plaque and tartar as your pet chews, promoting healthier teeth and gums. Opt for treats that are specifically designed for dental care.

Other Services

Veterinary Surgery 

Vets can perform a range of comprehensive cat surgeries to address various dental issues, such as removing severe tartar build-up or extracting damaged teeth. These surgeries, which often fall under the broader category of veterinary surgery, are essential for maintaining the well-being of your pet and preventing any potential complications.


Your pet’s dental health is vital for its overall well-being and happiness. By understanding the most common dental issues and taking preventative steps, you can keep your furry companions’ teeth and gums healthy, ensuring they lead a pain-free, long life. No matter the species or breed, a healthy mouth is a vital component of a healthy pet.


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