All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Importance of Dental Care

Hi Marie,
Last week my dog went to the veterinary hospital to have a fatty tumor removed. It was considered minor surgery. The veterinarian noticed that a couple of my dog’s molars were in very bad shape and suggested extracting them. My dog’s front teeth always looked so good, so I never considered that the back teeth had any problems. Since he was under anesthesia, this was the first time we were really able to get a good look at his back teeth. I agreed to the dental work since it seemed like a good time to take care of everything. A short time later, my veterinarian called and told me that my dog’s heart had stopped during the procedure and he had died.

Apparently, this had been due to the dental infection affecting his heart. I had not known that
dental problems could lead to this outcome. I thought this might be a good topic for your
column so that people can understand how important it is to keep on top of their pets’ dental

Dear Judy. First, I am so sorry for your loss and I know how sad you must be; but thank you for sharing your experience to help other people and animals. Yes, maintaining dental health in pets is very important. Usually, most people do not consider this unless their pets have serious bad breath, or exhibit other obvious symptoms associated with gum disease and tooth decay, such as constant drooling, difficulty eating, loss of appetite, etc. In fact, eight out of ten pets have minor to serious dental problems because their people don’t realize anything is wrong.

Just like humans, pets should have regular dental check-ups. Their teeth should be cleaned as recommended by their veterinarians. But people can take active steps at home to maintain their pets’ dental health via daily teeth brushing.

Of course, it is easiest to start this process with a very young pet, but any pet can be trained to cooperate, and even enjoy daily teeth brushing. And as I always say whenever teaching a new behavior is needed, it will take time, patience and a lot of practice to achieve a good comfort level – for all parties involved!

There are many different brushes and finger tools that are available at most pet supply stores. Meat-flavored toothpaste can usually be found nearby the toothbrushes. Purchase a few different flavors of paste and at least a couple different brushes and/or finger tools. You’ll find one combination that your pet will tolerate. NEVER use human toothpaste on a pet. Pets cannot spit out the extra nor rinse their mouths and if they swallow it, they can suffer serious intestinal and stomach problems. They need their own, special formula.

It is not easy to get your pet used to having his teeth brushed. In the beginning, only try and
brush a small section. If you are successful, be sure to heap praise on him. Each day, increase
the area that you are able to clean until you are able to brush every surface of every tooth. You should also provide your pet with chew toys that have bumps. Many of these toys’ labels will indicate that they promote good dental health. Additionally, crunchy dog treats and dry kibble help scrape away plaque.

If you have an adult dog (or cat) who appears to have tartar buildup on his molars, he will need
to have a professional cleaning and that must be done under anesthesia, especially if he requires
a tooth to be extracted. However, it is very important to have various blood tests performed prior
to this procedure. These tests can determine if your pet has a bacterial infection, liver, kidney or heart problems, or other issues that must be considered before anesthesia. Your veterinarian may need to put your pet on a course of antibiotics, or another medication prior to completing the dental procedure.

Poor dental health can cause bleeding gums, loss of appetite and energy, heart, kidney and intestinal problems, joint pain, and more. Keep your pets healthy and happy by setting aside a few minutes each day to clean their teeth.


  1. I didn't realize that dental care was so important with pets! That poor dog looks like it is in a lot of pain. Hopefully my dog doesn't have any tooth problems as a result of my negligence.

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  4. I didn't realize that dental care was so important with pets! That poor dog looks like it is in a lot of pain. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article.