Four Paws, Five Treasures LLC
Linda Vognar, DVM, CVA

Integrative Veterinary Medicine
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese
Veterinary Medicine



Have you ever wrinkled your nose at the odor coming from your pet's mouth? Does this odor make it unpleasant to cuddle or play with your animal friend?  We have long called this "doggy or kitty breath" but it is really a sign of dental disease.

When tartar accumulates around teeth and under gums it houses bacteria.  That bacteria grows and causes inflammation of the gums and destruction of the bony tissue that holds the teeth in their sockets.  If unchecked it causes the teeth to loosen.  They fall out or must be pulled under anesthesia.

But dental disease is not a problem confined to the mouth.  Bacteria that grows in the mouth is carried to other parts of the body through the inflamed blood vessels of the gums.  It is carried to the throat, and eventually to the heart and the filtering systems of the kidney, slowly causing deterioration of these organs.  Thus, what appears at first glance to be an isolated health issue is actually a systemic issue that can have life threatening consequences.


Dental health is effected by many factors, but the strongest influences are diet, oral hygiene and genes.  Genetic tendencies to dental disease can be minimized by careful attention to diet and oral care.


Good dental care begins at home and its foundation is an excellent diet.  Feeding raw, no grain and low grain diets, as well as home cooked diets from puppy/kittenhood into old age will help your animal friend maintain a healthy mouth.  These diets reduce inflammation and provide the building blocks for a healthy immune system.  They more closely approximate a diet that your pet would eat in a natural setting.


Handle your animal friend's mouth daily to get them used to a tooth brush.  The best way to keep the mouth healthy is with frequent brushing using an animal tooth paste and a pediatric tooth brush.  However few of us have time for this regular routine in our harried lives.  We are lucky if we find time to brush our own teeth and supervise the brushing of our children's teeth.  Fortunately there are good and convenient alternatives to daily brushing.


A product that is safe for daily use in our animal friends is a North Sea kelp that is sprinkled over the pet's food prior to meals.  It is a patented powdered kelp called PLAQUE OFF™.  Since PLAQUE OFF does not involve handling your pet's mouth (something few of us like to do) and we all must make time daily to feed our pets, it is convenient and easy to use.  PLAQUE OFF prevents tartar build up, softens existing tartar so that it is easier to remove with a brush or chewing and sweetens the breath.

PLAQUE OFF is safe to use on dogs without restriction, but I do recommend that cat owners who have middle aged or older cats have a thyroid level checked prior to beginning the use of this kelp.  It does contain Iodine (as does all kelp) and can increase thyroid hormone in cats who have overactive thyroids.

For owners who prefer a safe natural product that is applied directly to the teeth, or those who would rather avoid a thyroid test for their cat,  I recommend a product call VETZLIFE.  It is a blend of grapefruit seed extract and herbal oils that remove and soften plaque when in contact with the teeth for at least 30 minutes (no eating or drinking for 30 minutes post application).  While a bit less convenient than PLAQUE OFF it is just as effective, and is also an alternative for pets who are picky eaters and will not accept the PLAQUE OFF on their dinner. 

Both PLAQUE OFF and VETZLIFE are available in my holistic acupuncture practice and at my anesthesia-free dental clinics.


Finally, regular professional dental care through your family veterinarian or veterinary dentist is also important.  Your veterinarian evaluates your pet's teeth and gums regularly and will make recommendations concerning dental cleaning, xrays, extractions and referrals to board certified veterinary dentists when necessary. 

Routine teeth cleaning, xrays and extractions are often done at your family veterinarian's office under anesthesia.  A physical exam and pre-anesthetic blood screening should be performed before any procedures requiring anesthesia.  If abnormalities are noted they should be resolved or stablized before anesthesia if possible.  After the procedure your pet may go home on antibiotics or pain medicine.


Severely diseased mouths, and those that require xrays or extractions should always be cleaned under anesthesia but there is an alternative for pets with early to moderate peridontal disease and tartar:  anesthesia-free dental cleaning is now available in the Chippewa Valley.  Many owners prefer to avoid anesthesia for animals with underlying disease (usually those with kidney, liver, disease, diabetes, epilepsy or a history of anesthesia problems), or for pets who require frequent cleaning without extractions or xrays. 


Many pets can have their teeth scaled awake using a homeopathic calmer (a botanical anti-anxiety mixture).  If necessary, calming can be augmented by acupuncture.  Veterinarians licensed in Wisconsin must supervise any dental procedures, though the scaling is usually done by a dental technician.

Prior to the cleaning the veterinarian will do an oral exam and take a medical history to make sure your pet is a good candidate for the cleaning, and refer any pets who need extractions, xrays or other care that requires anesthesia to a local family vet or a veterinary dentist. The clinic should use clean, sterilized equipment in each pet's mouth, including separate polishing brushes.   After the anesthesia-free scaling the supervising veterinarian will again examine your pet's mouth and prescribe antibiotics or herbal pain medicines if necessary.  The procedure usually takes about 45 minutes from scaling to polishing, and your animal friend is able to walk out the door and go home immediately afterward.


Pets who need xrays, have severe gum disease, or need extractions are not candidates for anesthesia-free cleaning.  Some dogs and cats are simply too active, anxious, or aggressive to permit anesthesia-free cleaning. Brachiocephalic breeds may be especially difficult to clean without anesthesia as their short muzzles can make visualization and access to the teeth and gums difficult. However, the majority of pets tolerate anesthesia-free cleaning well.


At this time I am conducting anesthesia-free dental clinics by appointment on a monthly basis at several free standing sites in the Chippewa Valley.  Check my website (appointments tab), the Second Opinion Magazine events section or Bifrost Farms' Other Services Page for exact dates and locations.