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15 Signs Your Pet May Have Dental Problems
February 1, 2024

During February, we observe Pet Dental Health Month – a crucial topic that’s all-too-often overlooked. Similar to humans, dental issues can also cause discomfort and difficulty for our beloved pets. In fact, these problems can be even more challenging for our animal friends since they cannot communicate their pain or schedule a dentist appointment for themselves. Therefore, it is necessary to monitor our pets closely and look for any indications of dental problems. This article by a Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN veterinarian provides helpful information on what warning signs to be aware of.

Pet parents often overlook the signs that something is wrong with their furry friends because dental issues can be subtle. Some of the most common oral health concerns include gum disease, overcrowding, misalignment, and abscesses. It’s also possible for pets to break or crack their teeth. This is especially common with our canine companions. Fido might be really good at fetching sticks, but that skill could potentially backfire. Cats can also suffer from tooth resorption, as well as feline stomatitis.

Have your pet’s teeth checked regularly by your local Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN veterinarian and keep an eye out for the following warning signs in between appointments.

Buildup of Tartar

Visible tartar buildup is one of the most obvious signs of gum disease. Gum disease is essentially the same in pets as it is in people. Fortunately, at this stage (also known as gingivitis) the condition can often be reversed with appropriate care. The problem is, this rarely happens with pets. As the condition progresses, tartar accumulates around the gumline, causing pockets of infection. Once a pocket of infection is formed, it’s followed by a loss of gum tissue and eventually bone.

It is important to recognize that gum disease isn’t just about appearance. In addition to causing tooth shifting and loss, gum disease has been linked to some of the most serious health conditions, including heart disease, liver disease, and kidney failure. This happens when the infection is allowed to spread from the mouth to the vital organs through the bloodstream.

A deep cleaning may be needed if your pet has noticeable brown or yellow gunk on their teeth. The tartar can then be professionally removed, enabling the gums to heal and reattach. Talk to your Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN vet for more information.

Stinky Breath

While your pet may not naturally have the most minty-fresh breath, their affectionate smooches and nose boops shouldn’t make you cringe. Halitosis is always a concern because it may indicate a number of health conditions.

Gum Bleeding

As with humans, bleeding gums can also be a sign of gum disease in pets. While you may not notice anything directly on your pet’s gums, you might spot smears on their toys, dishes, or the fur around their mouth.

Drooling That Is Excessive Or Ropy

If your canine pal is a Bloodhound, Boxer, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Retriever, or Bassett Hound, you can expect him to naturally be a little slobbery. If this isn’t the norm for your pet, however, excessive drooling could be a warning sign, as could drool that is stringy or ropy in texture.

Normally cats don’t drool, so if you notice Fluffy dribbling, pay extra attention.

Food Dropping

Despite their lack of table manners, most pets are pretty good at getting food into their mouths. If your pet has dental issues, however, they might have difficulty chewing and as a result, dribble food out of their mouth.

Preference of Soft Food/Treats

Having a painful mouth is no fun. Chewing hard food can make it even worse. If Fido or Fluffy is experiencing dental issues, they might favor soft foods and ignore their dry food. They may also lose interest in crunchy treats.

Disinterest In Play

Because Fido uses his mouth to play, dental issues may slow down his enthusiasm for a good game of tug-o-war or fetch. As for Fluffy, she may not feel as up to batting around that catnip mouse or chasing that mysterious red dot if her teeth or gums are bothering her. 

Swollen Gums

In addition to being a warning sign that your pet might be in serious pain, swelling of the mouth may also indicate that there might be an underlying infection. Any infection can be concerning, but those located in an area that’s close to the brain can be particularly dangerous.

Avoiding Affection

You should also keep an eye out for your pet suddenly refusing to have their head or face touched, especially if forehead rubs or ear scratches are something they normally enjoy.

Changes In Mood

If you’ve ever had a toothache, you know how miserable it can be. Experiencing pain is no fun for anyone, two-legged or four. You might notice that your pet hasn’t been acting like their usual upbeat self. They may retreat to a quiet pace, and not interact with the rest of the family. In severe cases, your pet might even growl, hiss, or snap if you attempt to touch their face or mouth. 


You may notice your furry friend pawing at their mouth or face. This may be common when a cat is grooming herself, but if it doesn’t seem related to Fluffy’s beauty regimen, there could be something wrong.

Lack of Grooming (Cats)

A healthy cat is usually pretty good at grooming herself. Fluffy might normally spend hours a day making sure her fur is clean and soft, but if her mouth hurts, that may interfere with this process. In addition, kitties who aren’t feeling well sometimes neglect their normal beauty routines. Just like humans, when cats are ill, they often just don’t feel like themselves.

Changes in Eating Habits

Another red flag to watch for is a change in your four-legged friend’s eating habits. We already mentioned that an aversion to hard food can be a warning sign, but that’s not the only one. An animal with dental problems may also take longer to eat.

Appetite Reduction

When your pet’s teeth or gums are extremely painful, they may even lose interest in food altogether. This is quite dangerous as it can result in weight loss and even malnutrition. It’s important to note that reduced appetite can also be a sign of a variety of other health problems. If your pet isn’t eating, contact your Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN veterinarian right away. 


It is often the case that dental problems lead to issues with the nasal passages or sinuses. This can result in nasal discharge, which is not normal for Fido or Fluffy.

Other Signs to Watch For

Listed below are some additional warning signs, most of which can be easily spotted by the naked eye.

  • Extra teeth
  • Teeth that are missing
  • Visible abscesses
  • Inflammation

You should contact your Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN vet right away if you notice any of these symptoms.

Signs Of Dental Problems In Pocket Pets

It’s important not to forget about our smallest pets. Hamsters, gerbils, Guinea pigs, and rabbits all have what are known as open-rooted teeth, which grow continuously. Because of this, these little guys are highly prone to dental problems. This is why an ample supply of appropriate chew toys is so crucial. In addition to the above listed signs, you should also watch out for things like teeth grinding, visibly overgrown teeth, pain vocalizations, diarrhea, and an unclean bottom.

In conclusion, dental problems can be very dangerous for your pet. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, contact us, your trusted Lawrence area of Indianapolis, IN animal hospital, immediately. We’re here to help!