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Top 5 Signs of Dental Disease in Your Pet

Author: Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM

Top 5 Signs of Dental Disease in Your Pet
By Dr. Lacy Gilmer, DVM
Associate Veterinarian, Calvert Veterinary Center


How many times have you looked at your pet and thought “I wish they could talk to me!” Well, your animal may not be able to actually talk, but chances are they are communicating in other ways.

The number one disease affecting pets is periodontal disease, or in other terms, a mouthful of really bad toothaches! Over 60% of animals have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old, so chances are your baby has some level of plaque, tartar, gingivitis, or disease below the gum line.

Below are the top 5 ways  your pet may be telling you that they are in pain. If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian to schedule an exam. Don’t let your pets suffer in silence.

  1. Bad breath. Does your dog have breath that could knock you over? That is not normal and is a sign of bacteria growing in the mouth.  You don’t want a mouth that looks like this licking your face! (And yes, I see teeth like this all too often!)
    Photo courtesy of The American Veterinary Dental College
  2.  Changes in behavior. Have you noticed that your pet is taking longer than normal to eat, chewing on one side of the mouth, not grooming themselves, dropping food, hiding, or acting grouchier than normal? These are all possible signs of dental pain. No one knows your pet better than you, so if you think they are “off” then a comprehensive physical and oral assessment by your veterinarian is warranted.


  1. Bleeding. Bleeding from the mouth is never normal, and can indicated dental disease, oral masses or tumors, fractured teeth, and other causes. You may notice spots of blood on their toys or beds, food dish, or even sneezing with bloody discharge if the dental disease is severe enough.
  2. Loss of appetite or loss of weight.  Weight loss can be due to many, many reasons including metabolic disease, cancer, or dental disease. If you notice your pet losing weight unexpectedly, it’s time to visit your vet!


  1. No signs at all. Dogs, cats and other companion animals, such as rabbits, rarely show signs of dental pain. This is a survival mechanism, an instinctual behavior that our domesticated animals have in common with their wild ancestors to prevent showing signs of weakness. For that reason, yearly or biyearly physical exams with your veterinarian are essential to screening for oral and other health concerns.  Dental x-rays taken during a dental cleaning are the best way to evaluate for any hidden dental disease.


If you are concerned that your pet could be suffering with dental disease, please call us at 410-360-7297 or visit us at for an exam and evaluation.   Because dental disease is progressive, it is important to stop it before it causes pain and tooth loss.  Prevention is the best medicine!

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