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12 signs that your pet needs a dental cleaning
Dental Cleanings

12 signs that your pet needs a dental cleaning

How do you know when your dog or cat needs a dental cleaning?

The first sign that you often read about when you’re researching dental care for dogs and cats is…bad breath! Don’t ever dismiss these 12 signs that your pet needs a dental cleaning. Stinky breath is on the top of the list!

Our pets can be stoic and not show us they’re in pain. We have to carefully watch any behavior that may seem ‘off’ and looking in their mouth can tell us a lot!

Hills Pet tells us that some early signs also include tartar on the teeth and a line of red inflammation along the gumline. 80 percent of dogs and cats have dental disease and it’s very preventable.

Unfortunately, the first signs of periodontal disease in dogs are rarely observed by pet parents. By the time the signs are noticeable, gum disease has typically advanced and is painful for a pet.

12 signs of periodontal disease in your pets

1. Red swollen gums


Bleeding or red gums isn’t ‘normal’ for dogs and cats. If you notice red swollen gums that’s a major indicator your dog has periodontal disease. Swollen and tender gums can also be painful for your cat or dog!

2. Bad breath


Some dogs have really bad breath! When all that tartar and plaque builds up on your animal’s teeth, the bacteria that starts to grow leads to bad breath. This is also not normal for a healthy pet.

3. Discolored teeth

Dog's teeth

Your dog and cat should have white teeth – similar to your teeth after a dental cleaning! This can happen even with daily home care and some dogs and breeds are predisposed to tartar. If you see teeth that have yellow and brown stains that is a sign that it’s time for a dental cleaning.

4. Bleeding gums

Dog's Teeth

Bleeding, sore gums fall into the same category as red, swollen gums! It’s also an indication that periodontal disease has already set in. This condition will worsen if untreated.

5. Drooling


Have you ever noticed your cat is drooling after drinking water? It isn’t a ‘cute’ drool but behavior that looks like they’re very uncomfortable. Drooling can also indicate dental disease especially in cats.

6. Loose or missing teeth


If you see a few of those small incisors move then call your vet! When dogs age sometimes they end up with some loose teeth. You’ve all seen the story about the small terrier or chihuahua that has many of their teeth removed due to poor dental care. Don’t let this be your dog or cat!

7. Inappetence in dogs


When your dog stops eating it could be due to discomfort or an illness. If they boycott meals and won’t chew on treats then that is a sign that their mouth hurts. Oral discomfort can affect their appetite.

8. Sneezing after drinking water


Sneezing after drinking water or eating is another possible sign your dog is having oral health issues. If you notice your cat sneezes every time they drink water then you should see the advice of your veterinarian.

9. Facial swelling


If you see swelling under the eyes or any area around the mouth then you can assume there is an infection. Many times these will lead to an abscess and a vet may even find your dog fractured their teeth.

10. Face rubbing an pawing at the mouth


Pawing at the mouth or face rubbing is a very serious indication your dog or cat is experiencing pain. This could be due to their mouth, teeth or even an allergic reaction to something outdoors.

11. Difficulty swallowing


If you notice your dog is having any problem swallowing you should treat this like it’s a vet 911. Even if your pet isn’t ‘choking’ and simply having trouble swallowing a treat or their daily meal the behavior isn’t normal.

12. Cats that stop eating


We talked about dogs. Now it’s time to address our feline friends. If your cat doesn’t want to eat from their bowl and this goes on for a day or more then this could also indicate oral pain. Cats may not like a new canned or dry food so make sure to take notes and share them with your veterinarian.

Dental health and checkups are just as important as an annual wellness exam. All pets should have their teeth examined by a veterinarian at least once a year.

If you’re interested in learning more about dental care for your dog or cat, we have a comprehensive guide that walks pet parents through everything they need to know about dental disease and cleanings.


Christy Caplan

Christy Caplan has over 10 years of experience covering the pet industry. As a certified veterinary technician, she uses her knowledge to inform stories on health and wellness topics.

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