Kitten yawning

Dental Care

Dental Care

When we think about dog or cat health care, it generally isn’t anything like our own human health care. However, some categories, like dental health, can be just as important for our pets as they are for us.

Small scruffy dog holding toothbrush in mouth

Just like us pet-parents, dogs’ and cats’ mouths experience build-ups of bacteria and plaque that can turn into dangerous infections and even tooth-loss if left untreated. Because the symptoms of poor dental hygiene are subtle in our pets until infections or tooth-loss have occurred, many pet-parents do not have a dental-health plan in place for their pets until it has become a serious issue. Currently, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 will have already developed some stage of periodontal dental disease due to poor mouth hygiene. Small dog breeds and short-snouted cat breeds are at even higher risk for dental disease as their teeth are more tightly spaced in their jaw.

We already know that our teeth need to be cleaned daily to avoid uncomfortable and expensive health issues later on, but we don’t always think about how the same can be true for our four-legged family members. Just like our teeth, dogs’ and cats’ teeth accumulate bacteria and food fragments around the gum-line and between teeth and these turn into a soft coating of plaque. If the plaque isn’t scrubbed off, it can harden into brown or yellow-ish tartar on the teeth that can only be removed by professional dental scaling. Tartar is an ideal place for dangerous bacteria to grow in the mouth and issues like gingivitis (painful inflammation of the gums) and other periodontal disease (Infection of the gums and teeth roots) will usually follow if it is allowed to build-up in your dog or cat’s jaw.

Not only is this bad news for your pet’s dental health, but it can also affect the rest of your dog or cat’s system once a dental infection gets into the bloodstream. Gum disease in dogs or cats has been shown to negatively impact their heart, kidneys, and liver and it is the leading cause of heart disease in cats today.

So what’s the good news? The good news is that with a little maintenance and regular care, all of these dental issues are avoidable for our fur-kids! Set up a dental-health plan that works for you and your pet and stick with it to save both you stress later on!


Choosing the right diet for your pet can have a big impact on their dental health. Because bacteria in the mouth is the underlying cause of dental issues, your pet’s overall health and immunity strength has a big impact on how quickly bacteria turns into an infection in your pet’s mouth. Choosing a diet that uses whole, minimally processed proteins and doesn’t include fillers like corn, wheat, or by-products that can cause a yeast infection in the gut, can give your pet’s immune system a boost that will help them fight bacteria growth and infection in the gums. Replacing a high-starch diet with a high-protein diet, supplemented with probiotics will help your dog’s system naturally fight bacteria growth.

It is also a long-standing myth that kibble is important for dogs and cats to help keep their teeth clean. If you’ve ever watched your dog or cat eat kibble, you’ll notice that they will usually chew as little as possible and will only shatter the occasional kibble with the tips of their teeth so that they can swallow it. Dogs and cats are carnivores with teeth and jaws designed for tearing apart raw meat and crunching the occasional bone. Dogs have back gnawing molars for bones and some plant material but cats have no grinding surfaces on any of their teeth at all. When they are eating a kibble diet, both dogs and cats will swallow the kibbles whole or will only lightly chew the kibbles, which does absolutely nothing to remove the plaque and bacteria that is growing between the teeth and under the gum-line.

When you choose the right diet for your pet, the quality matters more than the form. So far, both dogs and cats who have been fed a complete raw diet have been shown to have the most positively impacted dental health. Whichever diet best supports your fur-kid’s overall wellness the best will make the most difference towards their dental health. No matter what food you choose, your pet will still need a little help to keep their teeth clean.


The gold-standard for pet dental health is daily teeth brushing. There isn’t a replacement that is as effective as actually scrubbing the teeth and gums on a daily basis for both cats and dogs. Kahoots carries a variety of toothbrushes and specially formulated toothpaste for dogs and cats. The easiest way to acclimate your pet to teeth brushing is to start young and very slowly.

Most pet owners feel overwhelmed by the idea of getting their pet to sit still for a teeth brushing and give up if they didn’t start when the pet was small. No matter what age your pet is, you can still start brushing! Just start small and use a lot of positive reinforcement. For example, begin by letting your pet smell and lick the toothbrush and pet safe toothpaste and accompany this with lots of treats and praise. Over several days, move on to putting the toothbrush or a dab of the toothpaste on their lips and then gums and then eventually over their teeth, all the while praising their patience and rewarding with treats.

Be realistic about your teeth-brushing plan for your pet. If you can only brush half of their teeth one day, then do the other half on another day. If it takes two people to calm the pet and brush their teeth then wait until you have assistance to attempt it. Every pet is different and it’s up to us as pet-parents to put together a dental care plan that works for our particular pet.


To supplement your dog or cat’s dental maintenance, there are countless dental chews that help fight plaque build-up. Dog and cat dental chews have been specially designed to get down in-between our pets’ teeth to remove plaque.

Choose chews that are size-appropriate for your pet and will last long enough for them to be effective- approximately 20 mins of chewing per day. If your pet eats or destroys a dental chew in a few seconds then it has relatively no time to clean their teeth. Choose a chew that is durable enough to last your pet more than a few minutes. Non-edible chews with a fibrous texture, like sturdy rope toys or nylon mesh toys, do a great job of getting down in between the teeth and naturally floss for your dog or cat as they play. There are many chews that will be beneficial for your dog or cat’s dental health as chewing anything for a length of time will stimulate gum circulation and saliva production which will help their mouth fight bacteria. Chews like deer antlers make for long-lasting natural options for aggressive chewers.

Edible dental chews for dogs are designed to be a lasting chew with a fibrous texture that will remove some plaque as your dog eats them. These are a great supplemental option for dogs that do not like to chew on toys. Dental treats like Greenies or Whimzees use oat, potato, or alfalfa fiber to get in between your dog’s teeth as they gnaw on the treat. Other dental treats, like Virbec C.E.T. dental treats coat rawhide treats with an enzymatic formula that makes them more digestible, as well as helping to break down the plaque and tartar as they’re chewed.

Just like the toys, dental treats are only effective if they are size-appropriate for your dog and take some time for them to consume. Many cats will happily gnaw at a bully stick or fish flavored dental chew.  There are also several types of dental treats available for cats, fortified with herbs and enzymes that help prevent plaque build-up and reduce bad breath.

While dental chews are not a substitute for brushing and regular professional cleanings, they are a great way to supplement your pet’s dental maintenance.

Sprays, Gels, and Water Additives

Kahoots also carries a variety of dental sprays, gels, and water additives that have been designed to break down plaque and reduce bacteria in dogs’ and cats’ mouths. Like chews, these products are designed to help us pet-parents maintain dental health for our pets between brushings and professional cleanings.

Dental sprays and gels are sprayed directly into your cat or dog’s mouth daily and allowed to spread over the gums to help reduce plaque and bacteria. Different sprays and water additives use different ingredients to assist in breaking down plaque and fighting bacteria. Natural sprays like Complete Oral Care use naturally derived grain alcohol, essential oils, and grape seed extract to fight bacteria and dissolve plaque on the teeth. The Zymox Oratene spray and water-additive formula uses a patented combination of enzymes to compete with bacteria, dissolve plaque, and relieve dry-mouth in dogs and cats. For more severe cases, the Sentry Petrodex spray uses Chlorhexidine Gluconate to kill bacteria and fight gingivitis in the gums. Dental sprays and gels are usually the best way to supplement cat’s dental care as cats will generally refuse to drink water that has a detectable dental additive in it and can dangerously dehydrate themselves rather than use a water-additive.

Water-additives use most of the same ingredients as dental sprays and can be equally effective if they are administered correctly to your pet. However, if your pet drinks from a water dish or fountain that has a filter, the filter will remove the dental cleaner from the water.

Professional Dental Cleaning

Even with regular brushing and dental maintenance, all pets should see a vet for a professional dental cleaning by the time they are three years old. Eventually, some tartar will accumulate on your pet’s teeth and will need to be removed by a vet. Also, some dogs and cats have special dental issues or damaged teeth that go unnoticed if they aren’t seen by a professional. Depending on your pet’s condition and age, they should have their teeth professionally checked and cleaned every 6-months to a year after they turn 3.

Many pet-parents worry about having their pets put under anesthesia regularly for teeth-cleanings, especially as their pets get older. However, anesthesia-free dental cleaning for pets is a growing solution that vets have begun to offer. Instead of putting pets under anesthesia for a routine cleaning, Kahoots’ vet technicians use calming techniques and a painless procedure to clean the teeth and gums of dogs and cats while they are awake. Every non-anesthesia dental procedure at Kahoots is preceded by a full health-check up by our Veterinarian to make sure that an anesthesia-free cleaning is the right option for the pet.  Our vet technicians will never proceed if there are any loose or painful teeth or gums that require medical treatment under anesthesia.

Severe cases of infection or loose teeth need to be treated with antibiotics or a tooth extraction done under anesthesia. However, regular cleanings done in a non-anesthesia procedure can keep this from ever becoming necessary.

Kahooligan Tip - Making your pet’s dental health part of your pet-care routine can make a big difference in your pet’s quality of life. Just like us, regular maintenance and over-all health support can keep dental health from becoming an uncomfortable or dangerous health issue later on.