Oral hygiene for dogs and cats

Oral hygiene for dogs and cats

Oral hygiene in animals is an increasingly frequent occasion for visits to veterinary clinics. Even on the first visits, owners with their charges are asked what can be done at home in this area, when to start and what preparations to use.

Tooth anatomy

The teeth of dogs and cats are similar in structure to human teeth. They consist of two main parts: the crown (the part protruding above the gum) and the root (the part below the gum). The teeth are surrounded by the periodontium, which is the gums, ligaments and other structures that hold the tooth in place.

Dental plaque formation

Immediately after a tooth erupts, a film forms on its surface, to which subsequent layers of bacteria easily attach, over time forming dental plaque. Dental plaque is a biofilm structure composed of bacteria, saliva, food debris, dirt, epithelial cells and inflammatory cells. Regular tooth brushing easily removes it from the crowns of the teeth, thanks to which the plaque does not build up and does not spread subgingivally. When dental plaque matures and mineralizes, it becomes tartar — a grey-brown hard structure that can completely cover the crowns of the teeth. It makes it impossible to reach the gums and teeth in a non-invasive way, which means that in order to clean them, it becomes necessary to put the pet under general anesthesia and perform scaling and other activities to remove both plaque and tartar.

What does negligence in hygiene lead to?

Negligence in oral hygiene allows bacterial plaque to grow unrestricted, leading to, among other things, down:

  • gingivitis (red gums)
  • bleeding gums
  • tartar build-up
  • tooth mobility
  • tooth loss
  • periapical abscesses
  • intranasal fistulas or into surrounding tissues

Symptoms of plaque and stone formation that we can notice in our pet on a daily basis include:

  • drooling
  • unpleasant odor from the mouth
  • reluctance to eat
  • swallowing food instead of biting
  • in cats, preference for dry food and leaving wet food
  • lack of hygiene (licking the coat)
  • chewing with one side of the mouth
  • muzzle swelling

Fortunately, the initial inflammation of the gums, which manifests itself as redness, sometimes bleeding and pain, is reversible. Regular tooth brushing and removal of bacterial plaque during dental procedures under general anesthesia helps keep the periodontium in good condition. However, negligence in hygiene leads to the build-up of dental plaque and, consequently, to the development of periodontitis through the penetration of bacteria into the gum pockets, where they multiply. The result of this condition may be, among others, swelling and pain of the gums, loosening and falling out of teeth, the formation of periapical abscesses (abscesses formed in the bone surrounding the tooth), as well as significant pain in the animal’s daily functioning. Such periodontal disease is irreversible. It requires a visit to the office, general anesthesia of the pet and surgical intervention in the oral cavity, often including extraction (removal) of teeth.

If stomatitis is severe, possible consequences include the spread of oral bacteria throughout the body. Bacteria reach the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs, causing harmful changes there and leading to health problems — problems that can be prevented by oral prophylaxis.


The most important part of oral prevention is systematic oral hygiene, which may include:

  • tooth brushing (at least 3 times a week)
  • lubricating the gums with preparations containing zinc or chlorhexidine
  • giving the animal food, snacks and chews that promote mechanical cleaning of teeth

A very effective but at the same time demanding preventive treatment is regular tooth brushing. The condition for its effectiveness is to perform it at least 3 times a week. There are toothbrushes available on the market specifically for animals, with a double head that allows you to clean the teeth from the buccal and palatal/lingual sides at the same time. It is also possible to initially use a children’s toothbrush with soft bristles. For treatments, we only use pastes intended for animals that our pets can safely swallow. Under no circumstances should you use toothpastes for humans because they contain fluoride, which is toxic to animals, and often has an unpleasant mint flavor. Pastes for dogs and cats usually have a meat flavor, contain herbal extracts, e.g. parsley, and the addition of silica that helps mechanically clean the teeth, as well as enzymes and other additives that fight bacterial plaque. The mentioned ingredients are contained in Dr. Seidel’s Deo toothpaste , which does not require brushing.

Additionally, it is worth introducing preparations in the form of a gel or spray with antibacterial and odor-eliminating properties. These types of preparations work very well for animals that do not tolerate brushing — although they are not as effective as regular brushing, they help keep the gums in good condition, at least to a minimal extent. A good alternative to brushing is to use a preparation containing chlorhexidine, e.g. Dr. Seidel’s Deo-Spray . Chlorhexidine is a substance most often found in dental preparations for animals. It has a bactericidal effect. In the mouth, it combines with dental plaque and mucous membrane, and is then gradually released, protecting against bacteria. It is worth asking the veterinarian under the care of your pet about instructions and the frequency of using specific oral care products.

Dodatkowo warto wprowadzić preparaty w formie żelu lub sprayu o właściwościach antybakteryjnych i niwelujących nieprzyjemny zapach. Tego typu preparaty bardzo dobrze sprawdzają się u zwierząt, które nie tolerują szczotkowania – mimo że nie są one równie skuteczne co regularne szczotkowanie, to chociaż w minimalnym stopniu pozwalają utrzymać dziąsła w dobrym stanie. Dobrą alternatywą do szczotkowania jest stosowanie preparatu zawierającego chlorheksydynę, np. Deo-Spray dr Seidla. Chlorheksydyna jest substancją najczęściej spotykaną w preparatach stomatologicznych dla zwierząt. Ma działanie bakteriobójcze. W jamie ustnej łączy się z płytką nazębną i błoną śluzową, po czym jest stopniowo uwalniana chroniąc przed bakteriami. O instruktaż i częstotliwość stosowania konkretnych preparatów do pielęgnacji jamy ustnej warto pytać lekarza weterynarii, pod opieką którego znajduje się dane zwierzę.

Regular dental checkups

Pets, especially cats, often successfully hide painful diseases — therefore it is very important to have their teeth checked by a veterinarian, initially once a year, and in older animals every 6 months. During the visit, the bite will be assessed, the lymph nodes and gums will be examined, the number of teeth and their condition will be checked. Additionally, the doctor may recommend an examination under anesthesia and a dental procedure if he/she deems them advisable based on the clinical examination.

lek. wet. Monika Gładysz-Kmieć

17 марта 2023