By Dr. Scarlett Magda

Periodontal disease is inflammation of the gums or soft tissues supporting the teeth, and can sometimes involve the bony structures that support the teeth as well.

If your pet has purple or red gums you need to start paying attention.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Association periodontal disease is the most common diagnosis with 85% of pets having it by 3 years of age! It results from bacterial toxins and by products from the breakdown of food that irritate the gums causing the swelling and redness that you see.

The disease starts with bacteria forming plaque on the teeth, and after 1-2 days the plaque starts to calcify forming tartar which irritates the gums. Over time the gums develop pockets, the bones supporting the teeth erode and teeth become loose.

The same things happen in people if we don’t brush our teeth.

It is recommended to brush your pet’s teeth at least 3 times a week, anything less doesn’t actually help.

You can purchase a dental kit from your vet where we have chicken or beef flavored toothpaste and brushed designed for dog teeth.

I recommend having a routine where you brush your pet’s teeth right after brushing yours!

If plaque has already formed, visit your vet as your pet may need a dental scaling, once teeth are clean you can start brushing!

For those people that just can’t commit to daily brushing, here are some tips:

  • Try to brush your pets teeth 3 times per week, you can get a dental kit at your vet’s office
  • Consider using Oravet which is a wax-like substance applied once a week to the outer surface of your pet’s teeth with a swab, it prevents plaque from attaching to the teeth.
  • Chewing on a proper dental chews daily can substantially reduce plaque and tartar by up to 69%. It is important to use chews every day as occasional use won’t have the same effect.
  • Dental chews must be the proper size for your dog to avoid a choking hazard. Examples include ingredients to prevent mineralization of plaque (i.e. hexametaphosphate in C.E.T. Dentahex chews) or to prevent future plaque attachment (delmopinol in Oravet brand chews), and green chlorophyll to help with bad breath.
  • Try greenies which is a dental chew. Dog greenies are flexible while cat greenies are crunchy, it’s important to use these daily!
  • Cow hooves, antlers and bones are not appropriate chew toys! They can break or shatter teeth!
  • Pig ears are well loved but studies have shown approximately 9% have bacterial contamination including salmonella. No studies have been performed to evaluate effectiveness on dental hygiene in pets.

For a list of approved dental products visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council at

Also by Dr. Scarlett Magda:

Vet Advice by Dr. Scarlett

Preventing heat stroke and pet beach safety

Fireworks and Pet Safety