vet looks at dog's teeth

Dental Care

Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is just as important as keeping your own teeth clean!

Canine dental disease is common and can turn into serious health problems later in life if not treated. It begins when bacteria turns into plaque which then sticks to the teeth surfaces. Minerals in the dog salvia harden the plaque into tartar. The tartar then spreads under the gums. Bacteria in the dog’s mouth and under the gums secrete toxins which then damage gum tissue. The dog’s immune system identifies the bacteria as bad which then triggers an inflammatory response which further damages the tissue around the teeth.

80% of dogs have some level of dental disease by the age of 3.

50–90% of cats have some level of dental disease by the age of 4.

Diet plays a huge part in causing dental disease. Most kibbles are comprised of carbohydrates which break down into sugars; the sugars then stick to the teeth and dental disease begins.

Some common symptoms of canine dental disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Visible plaque and tartar
  • Bad odor from the mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Unwillingness to eat
  • Pain

Hershey Veterinary Hospital performs canine and feline dental care. Dental cleaning is done under anesthesia with patients intubated. Scaling is done below and above the gum line. Teeth are polished to help prevent plaque from sticking in tiny crevices created by scaling. Teeth are probed for cavities and signs of periodontal disease. We also perform teeth extraction surgery. Dental surgeries are performed by appointment only Monday-Friday. We require pets to be dropped off between 7:00–8:00am on the morning of the scheduled procedure. Your pet’s dental surgical procedure will be reviewed with you by the veterinarian and a pre surgical physical examination will be performed. Pets receiving dental surgery at our office should not be fed anything after 8:00pm the night prior to surgery. Water does not need to be withheld. Pre anesthetic blood work is recommended for all dental surgical patients and is required for all adult patients. A quote for all procedures will be provided during your pre anesthetic evaluation with the veterinarian.  

Our dental surgical patients will be discharged the same day. You will receive a phone call from our office when your pet’s procedure has been finished. A pickup time will be provided during this phone call. All pets will receive verbal as well as written instructions at the time of pickup to care for your pet after surgery. Antibiotic medicine is dispensed when your pet is discharged; this medicine is important because of the bacteria present in your dog’s mouth when the dental cleaning or surgery was performed. Recheck appointments will be scheduled at no charge to monitor your pet’s recovery following dental surgical procedures.

Daily teeth brushing  is recommended for all dogs and cats. Any appropriately sized toothbrush can be used or a finger brush can be used. The brush should contain only water or toothpaste made specifically for pets. Human toothpaste should be avoided as it can make pets sick. Using flavored pet specific toothpaste can make training easier as it provides a tasty treat during brushing. Hershey Veterinary Hospital offers resources to help owners learn proper brushing techniques.  

Many dental health products are commercially available however they are not a replacement for daily brushing. If trying these over the counter products be sure they are certified by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).  Only these products have been proven to be effective against tartar and plaque buildup. More information and a list of approved products can be found at Dental diets are also available to help with oral hygiene.  Speak with your veterinarian before starting a dental diet for your pet.