Fraser Valley Animal Hospital

2633 Ware Street
Abbotsford, BC V2S 3E2


 Dental Health Month

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We don't just want pretty mouths, we want healthy mouths!!!

Dental health is a very important part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. 

Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

Why Clean My Pet’s Teeth?

Tartar begins life in the mouth as plaque, a film of bacteria that can be scrubbed away by brushing. In less than 36 hours, this bacterial film hardens into tartar, which is what when left unchecked leads to gum disease.  Slowly this progresses and we start to see infections around tooth roots and the destruction of the surrounding tissues and the bony socket that holds the teeth in place.

We know that oral disease can be painful – just ask anyone who has dealt with a tooth root abscess. Our cats and dogs will rarely tell you that they have oral pain as in the wild, any sign of weakness can lead to lower standing in the pack hierarchy or to being seen as prey, not predator, this behaviour is still ingrained and so it is up to us to ensure they do not suffer in silence. 

In humans, researchers have documented the link between dental disease and conditions that affect the brain, heart, liver, kidney, lung, skin and joints.  Studies have shown this correlation is true in our dogs and cats.  In fact in the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine there is a published a recent study that showed a link between chronic kidney disease in cats and dental disease.

Dental Health Symptoms

If you notice any of the symptoms below, you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible and make an appointment:

  • Bad Breath
  • Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth.
  • Reluctance to eat hard foods.
  • Red, swollen gums and yellow/brown stains on teeth.

If you are unsure one of our trained technicians can provide a complementary mouth check. Call 604-854-2313

Views from our Veterinarians

We hate, hate, hate (did we emphasize that enough) seeing those rotten mouths in a 10 year old dog where we know we are going to have to remove 13-15 teeth. That mouth has been hurting. This tends to be most commonly seen in our small to medium sized dogs. 


Small dogs tend to do less of the recreational chewing that fights plaque buildup. And because their teeth are proportionately larger given the smaller size of their heads, they have more tooth crowding above the gum, which creates more pockets for tartar and bacteria to marinate. This causes periodontal disease, which, unlike its precursor gingivitis, is irreversible and eventually erodes the jaw bones that support the teeth. Small dogs also have less bone to lose and are at a higher risk of jaw fractures.  I have seen them! 

Round-headed breeds of dogs- pugs, boston terriers, boxers and bulldogs- have even more tooth crowding than other small breeds. Their teeth tend to be stacked on top of each other, rotated at least 90 degrees. These abnormal tooth positions cause an abnormal gum line and, consequently, a greater risk for periodontal disease

How we've chosen to help (that's why we are here)

Our vets here at FVAH came up with a program to help all our pets maintain a healthy mouth.  As we know that it is much easier to keep a mouth healthy than to try and repair a mouth!  Our Pearly White Program costs no money to be a part of and there is no contract.  But for every animal in the program they receive an annual dental cleaning and radiographs at a significant discount.  And as long as the pet maintains their annual cleaning we also do any additional dental work at a 10% discount at anytime of the year! 

We know from studies that a healthy mouth can add 2 years to a pet’s life!

Our dental program has been designed to make it easier for owners to commit to keeping their pet's mouth healthy. The Pearly White Program includes an annual dental cleaning, a dental exam and full mouth radiographs at a reduced price.

If we discover a problem along the way a 10% discount is applied to additional work


  • Does my pet have to have anesthetic?

    Yes. X-rays reveal hidden disease & can’t be taken on an awake pet. As well, a large amount of plaque & tarter is found under the gumline and cannot be cleaned without anesthetic and sharp tools 

But I Do Not Want Anesthetic!

Although owners are justifiably cautious about the use of anesthesia, dental procedures cannot be properly performed when an animal is awake.  Dogs and Cats who are fully alert simply will not tolerate thorough inspection of their mouths. We use sharp scaling instruments to check for gingival pockets and the use of sharp tools in a moving pet’s mouth is just dangerous.  There is a debate raging in the veterinary and animal care community whether the cosmetic cleaning of teeth (anesthetic free dentistry) could be doing more harm than good.  The concern most veterinary dentist have is that scraping tartar, that is “chalk full” of bacteria, in a mouth full of blood vessels may lead to the oral bacteria entering the blood stream and infecting internal organs such as the heart valves.  The second concern is that the majority of serious oral disease is below the gum line and so even though the teeth may be cosmetically pretty they may still be very diseased. Unfortunately the disease process and associated pain can not been rectified by a cosmetic anesthetic free dental.  The disease that’s going to cause tooth loss and systemic disease is what is going on below the gum line or within the teeth themselves. Thus radiographs are a vital part of ensuring your pet’s mouth is healthy and you cannot take radiographs on an awake animal.Tartar buildup below the gum line and gingivitis aren't addressed during a procedure that only scrapes and polishes the teeth. Most oral disease happens below the visible surfaces of your dog's or cat's mouth.  Cleaning below the gum line cannot and should not be done in an awake animal.  Sharp instruments used to scale below the gum line can be dangerous and damage tissue or break a tooth if a pet jerks or moves his/her head.  A dental cleaning is NOT complete if tartar is left below the gum line as it is the cause of the pain, bone loss, infection and potential systemic disease. 

  • What About Anesthesia Free Dentistry?  

    Wouldn’t that be great if our pets would just open wide and turn their head so we could scale their teeth.  I’d love to say just gently bite down on this x-ray film as I radiograph your molar to ensure all is well below the gum line.  We all hate putting our pets under anesthesia.  But sadly anesthetic free dentistry is purely cosmetic and does NOTHING for the health of your pet.  As veterinarians we are far more concerned about keeping your pet healthy, pain free and spending more quality time with you, than having a white smile!  But we too understand the concern with anesthesia and that is why before any anesthesia we do a full work up including an exam, blood work and often chest radiographs. In case you've never heard of anesthetic free dentistry it involves cleaning just the surface of the teeth of a fully awake pet. It does not involve evaluating what's going on below the gum line or in other unseen areas of the oral cavity.We know that the majority of serious oral disease is below the gum line and so even though the teeth may be cosmetically pretty they still maybe very diseased and unfortunately this disease process and pain can not been rectified by a cosmetic anesthetic free dental.  The disease that’s going to cause pain, tooth loss and systemic disease is what’s going on below the gum line or within the teeth themselves—particularly with cats. More Information -

  • Why Should I Make Sure Radiographs Are Done?

    Not all dental disease is on the tooth’s surface and in fact 2/3rds of a tooth is below the gum line.  The disease that’s going to cause tooth loss, pain and systemic disease is what’s going on below the gum line or within the teeth themselves.  The only way to examine this area is through radiographs and one cannot take oral radiographs on an awake animal.   One cannot treat what one cannot see.

    Below is a tooth root abscess. This would not of been diagnosed without x-rays. Ouch!!


How To Take Care Of My Pet’s Teeth After A Dental Cleaning?

Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to prevent dental disease in your pet—and it’s actually pretty easy, compared with wrangling with your toddler over tooth brushing or even keeping up with your own flossing.


 Lucky for us as we don’t need to brush our pet’s teeth for the 2 minutes that is recommended for us as we are just trying to remove the plaque.  So you can keep your pet’s mouth closed and brush with circular motions along the outside of the upper teeth.  My cats get only eight seconds of brushing a day, which is actually plenty! To get started, choose a soft-bristled, appropriately sized toothbrush.

A veterinary toothpaste flavored with poultry or vanilla can help make cleaning more palatable to your pet(though if your pet doesn’t like these just ask and we can order a variety of flavours). While most pet toothpastes have some anti-plaque ingredients, they do not contain the fluoride or foaming agents found in human toothpastes. Veterinarians caution that you should never use human toothpaste on your pet because it can cause heavy-metal toxicity (from the fluoride) and gastrointestinal upset. You also shouldn’t use baking soda, which is high in salt and can harm pets with heart or kidney disease. Introduce as slowly as you need to.  Make it fun! Reward your pet throughout the procedure and keep it short. Begin by offering your dog or cat a taste of the veterinary toothpaste.  As your pet gets used to the toothpaste, try to run your finger along the gum line of the upper teeth. Then once he/she is comfortable slowly start to repeat the process with the toothbrush. Remember to make brushing even easier, associate those eight seconds with a treat. For dogs, keep a toothbrush next to their leash or the treat jar, and then brush before a walk or snack. With cats, brush their teeth during lap time or before play time or a treat. Pets can actually enjoy their daily cleaning. 

Check out Dr Bruce as she introduces Manny to having his teeth brushed. 

 2. Treats/Food

Food and some chew treats can also aid in plaque removal, but be sure you learn which ones actually help, which do nothing and which do harm. The Veterinary Oral Health Council website lists foods and products that have been independently evaluated and shown to stem the growth of plaque. A word of caution as there is no regulation on pet foods, treats or toys so you can’t rely on dental claims found on the labels.   Look for the VOHC label
Generally dry food is better than canned because the act of chewing produces saliva—nature’s own system for cleansing the mouth of harmful bacteria—and hard food particles help clean the teeth. Be aware though, if you can’t flex a chew or toy or push a fingernail into it, it’s too hard.  Bones and chew toys that are too hard will fracture teeth – and we have had to remove countless teeth for this reason.
When choosing a treat for your dog, veterinary dentist recommends picking one that appears almost cartoonishly too large—to make sure your dog gets the plaque-removing benefit of actually chewing the treat instead of wolfing it down whole.

3, Water Additives

Dental water additives are a mixture of organics, mineral salts, and antiseptics that can be added to your dog’s water bowl to help keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy. They work similarly to the way your mouthwash promotes oral hygiene, helping to break down plaque buildup and bacteria that collect inside your dog’s mouth. Water additives come in a variety of forms, including liquid, pills, and powders, that all dissolve in drinking water.

Our goal at FVAH is preventative medicine as it is better for the life of the dogs and cats! 

Want more information contact us or give us a call 604-854-2313