Do you love your furry friend, but hate the way their breath smells? No matter how much you love their adorable, little pink nose, their relentless wagging tail, cute hello barks and sweet, slobbery kisses, when their breath smells bad it’s ruined.

No need to fear, you’re not the only one that has a pup with bad breath. Pets commonly have cases of horrible breath, which is a common clinical sign of periodontal disease in dogs and cats that is easy to identify.

Just like in humans, poor dental health can contribute to serious health issues for our pets, such as heart disease, increased risk of cancer, worsening diabetes, kidney disease, among others. Recognizing the importance of dental health in our pets is imperative for their overall health, well-being, and quality of life.

Here’s what you should look for:

Signs of Periodontal Disease

Halitosis (bad breath)

Persistent bad breath is consistently the first sign that most pet parents will notice.

Gums that bleed easily

Have you noticed blood on your pet’s bones or toys? If so, this is a sign of possible gingivitis that should be evaluated by your veterinarian.

Changes in eating behaviors

If your pet is eating slower, or they chew only on one side of their mouth, they could be showing signs of potential periodontal disease in dogs and cats.

Sensitivity around the mouth

If your pet no longer likes it when you to rub their chin or mouth area, this may be a sign of discomfort due to dental disease. Additionally, if your pet begins rubbing his face with his paws or on the carpet, this may be a sign of irritation or pain in the mouth. 

Discoloration of a tooth

This may be a sign of inflammation of the tooth pulp, a tooth root abscess or decaying tooth. Your pet should be evaluated by your veterinarian right away.

Swelling under the eye

This may suggest a possible tooth root abscess and needs to be addressed immediately by your veterinarian.

No signs at all

This is the most common sign of periodontal disease in pets! Many pets do not show any signs of oral disease at all. It is not till after their dental disease is addressed with a thorough cleaning, evaluation and treatment under anesthesia that pet owners notice a difference in their behavior. Often pet owners say how they seem younger and more active after the dentistry!

What can you do about dental disease in your pets?

Veterinarian dental check-ups

Visit your veterinarian for a thorough dental cleaning and examination annually or biannually. Just like humans, pets need a thorough cleaning. This removes the plaque and tartar under their gum lines that you cannot reach with a toothbrush. It also allows your veterinarian to perform a complete oral exam of each tooth and evaluate for more severe disease requiring treatments.

Tooth Brushing

Start by teaching all puppies and kittens as soon as you bring them to accept and enjoy teeth brushing. Use positive reinforcement and establish a daily habit of brushing your pet’s teeth. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and pet-formulated toothpaste. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations. If you have an adult pet, although sometimes more challenging, they can also be taught to have their teeth brushed with positive reinforcement. If you have any concerns, have your veterinarian evaluate their teeth prior to starting tooth brushing. Pets with severe dental disease will be too painful to brush their teeth, and brushing is most effective when the teeth are thoroughly cleaned first.

We recommend brushing every day, but if you can do it every other day, you are going to be way ahead of the game.

Dental Products

There are many dental products on the market to help maintain dental health in pets, including dental diets, dental chews and treats, and water additives. Dental diets are formulated for reducing the amount of plaque and tartar that accumulates on the teeth, and in some cases, may even prevent serious oral disease. Dental chews and water additives can help remove plaque build-up from teeth when used regularly. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendations and visit the VOHC website ( for recommended products.