Wednesday February 8th, 2023

Join Jameson Humane in Celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month

by Jeffrey Richard, Jameson Humane Volunteer

A key component of Jameson Humane’s mission is promotion of the health and well-being of all animals. Accordingly, Jameson asks our readers to take note and celebrate National Pet Dental Health month in February. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website ( includes this advice:

“Don't turn your nose to your pet's bad breath! That odor might signify a serious health risk. Dental health is a critical part of your pet’s overall health, and dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems.  That's why the AVMA sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February. Take part by learning more about how you can improve the dental (and overall) health of your pets.”

During this year’s National Pet Dental Health month (and regularly thereafter), people should:

  • Take pets for a regular veterinary check-up that will include examination of their mouth.
  • Softly brush their pets’ teeth using a toothbrush and toothpaste made for the species. (See specific advice below on steps to take in order to ease into brushing your pets’ teeth at home.  Note: only one percent of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth.)
  • Follow a balanced diet for pets.
  • Look for foods that are certified for Veterinary Oral Health Care (VOHC) on the packaging.
  • Look for warning signs of dental problems such as bad breath, swollen gums, brownish tartar deposits along the gum line, and bleeding.
  • Notice behavior such as pawing at their mouths or faces, which might indicate dental pain.


The AVMA website provides a step-by-step instructional video describing what you can do at home to help maintain pets’ dental health.  In addition to having a veterinarian check the animal’s teeth and gums at least once a year, people should take the following steps to help maintain a pet’s dental health:

  • Buy toothpaste and brushes designed for pets. Never use human toothpaste.
  • Brush your pets’ teeth daily but first gradually introduce them to the process:
    • Show them the pet the brush and paste and leave the items out for a week or so to let the pets get used to them.
    • For at least several days up to two weeks, before actually brushing, rub a little bit of paste on their gums to get them used to it, and give praise and treats to help associate the toothpaste application process with good things.
    • Introduce them to the brush, put some paste on the bristles and let them lick it off. Again, accompany this with lots of praise and some treats.
    • Once they are used to the brush and the paste, then begin with a little slow brushing of the teeth and gumline in one area, again with lots of praise and rewards.
    • Gradually work up to a complete brushing for about 30 seconds.
  • Give pets those products that are helpful in reducing tartar and plaque such as water or food additives.
  • Give pets treats that are specifically designed to reduce tartar and plaque. Rawhide may be okay but check with your vet first.

Veterinary services are necessary for more significant dental care, including regular cleaning and other steps such as tooth extraction.  For those services, it is particularly important that pet owners understand the need for anesthesia.   The AVMA explains in detail anesthesia and pre-anesthesia and post-anesthesia procedures and things to expect.  The website provides a list of things people can do to prepare their pet for anesthesia and reduce the risk to their pets:

  • Let your veterinarian know if your pet has ever had a reaction to sedation or anesthesia.
  • Make sure your veterinarian is aware of all medications and supplements (including over-the-counter products) your pet is receiving.
  • Keep your pet at a healthy weight.
  • Follow your veterinarian's instructions before anesthesia, especially with regards to withholding food and/or water.
  • Follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding any medications you should – or should not – give to your pet prior to anesthesia.