VCA Black Mountain Animal Hospital

Dog Dental Care and Hygiene

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Canine Periodontal disease is one of the most common and serious pet health problems, affecting approximately 80% of dogs by the age of 3. At-home prevention is as important as regular teeth cleaning by veterinarians. In fact, unless you provide teeth cleaning for your dog at home, periodontal disease will progress regardless of the care provided by your veterinarian.

How can you prevent periodontal disease in your dog?

The key to management of gum disease in dogs is prevention! As long as the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned frequently, the gums will stay healthy. There are several home care options to choose from and anything you can do to help prevent plaque and tartar buildup will be beneficial. Combining several home care options will be the most beneficial to your dog’s oral health.

Brushing your dog's teeth at home—the gold standard

The single most effective way to keep gums healthy and plaque controlled in your dog is daily tooth brushing. Plaque is a soft bacterial film and is easily disrupted by the mechanical effects of brushing. If plaque is removed daily, tartar will not form and progress to periodontal disease.

With patience and a gradual approach almost all dogs will eventually accept tooth brushing. For best results, tooth brushing should start when your dog is young and will easily adapt to teeth cleaning at home. As dogs age and develop tooth and gum disease, there may be pain associated with brushing. In this situation, there are dental wipes that can help control plaque when rubbed daily against the teeth and gums. If your dog completely resists brushing or acts painful, see your veterinarian as they may have particular teeth that need to be addressed.

Dog Tooth Brush

Selecting a tooth brush and tooth paste

Each dog should have his or her own toothbrush. Proper toothbrushes are soft and angled in order to adequately reach the back teeth. Some dogs prefer small finger brushes. There are numerous toothbrush shapes and sizes available to best fit your dog’s mouth. Your veterinarian can help you select the right brush for your dog.

Human toothpastes contain abrasives and detergents and should not be used in dogs as they will swallow the paste. There are many toothpaste flavors available and most dogs seem to prefer the seafood or poultry-flavored types.

Proper brushing technique

Toothbrush bristles should be placed at a 45-degree angle where the gum and teeth meet. Using a gentle oval pattern and covering three to four teeth at a time, the bristles should be moved around the teeth. Ten short oval motions should be completed before moving the toothbrush to a new location in the mouth. The outside upper teeth do the most chewing and should get more attention.

Oral rinses and gels

Chlorhexidine is the most effective antiseptic for preventing plaque accumulation. Some dogs may object to the taste, however, these products can usually be flavored and most dogs will tolerate them. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The gel is directly applied to the teeth.

Dental diets

Most dogs will not require a special dental diet. However, if your dog has particularly bad plaque problems your veterinarian may suggest one. Approved dental diets are usually kibbles with a special design or contain chemicals that bind and facilitate breakdown of plaque and/or tartar.

Chews and treats

Chew treats can also be helpful in the prevention of plaque and tartar accumulation. Some rawhides and biscuits have anti-tartar ingredients. It is not recommended that dogs chew on dried natural bones or hard nylon products, as they are often associated with broken teeth and damaged gums.

There are many treats that claim efficacy against plaque and tartar. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance ( has a list of approved foods and dental treats that can help pet owners distinguish which products are actually scientifically proven to reduce plaque and tartar buildup in your dog.


Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

As part of the VCA family, we have over 83 specialty hospitals across the US and Canada which provide referral specialty care, so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: behavior, cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, integrative medicine, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology, rehabilitation, reproduction, and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, please contact one of the following nearby emergency care clinics.

Animal Emergency Center
3340 East Patrick Lane • Las Vegas, NV 89120
Phone: 702-457-8050

VE+CC Veterinary Emergency & Critical Care
8650 W. Tropicana Avenue, Ste. B-104
Las Vegas, NV 89147
Phone: 702-262-7070.