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Small teeth, but big dental challenges


Raising awareness for owners of smaller dog breeds to implement proactive dental care in regular check-ups

leksann / stock.adobe.com

leksann / stock.adobe.com

With National Pet Dental Health Month occurring this month, Thrive Pet Healthcare, a veterinary healthcare network, is noticing a concerning trend in veterinary dentistry in which small dogs tend to develop dental problems more rapidly and at younger ages than bigger dogs.1 The veterinary network is hoping to bring more awareness to this predisposition by reminding pet owners to bring their pets in for dental exams.

"With French bulldogs reigning as America's top breed, and a rise in small dog ownership, it's crucial for owners of smaller dog breeds to understand their unique dental challenges," said Curt Coffman, DVM, FAVD, DAVDC, Thrive Pet Healthcare's specialty director of dentistry, in the release. "Their compact mouths, heads, and faces, along with other genetic features, predispose them to rapid tartar buildup, plaque, and gingivitis more than larger dogs."1

According to Thrive, brachycephalic dog breeds can have crowded or misaligned teeth, leading to early onset periodontal disease. This is significant because periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases affecting dogs, with a reported prevalence of at least 80% in dogs over 3 years of age.2 It can present in a variety of conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis, which all impact the teeth and gums.3 To make matters worse, as they age, these brachycephalic breeds lose jawbone density, and therefore require extractions at a younger age compared to larger dogs.1 These flat-faced breeds include Boston terriers, boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Shih Tzus, and more.

"It's challenging to have 42 teeth in such a small mouth," Coffman stated. "When something gets stuck between their teeth, they can't floss to remove it like humans. Beginning a proactive oral hygiene regimen at home when your dog is young, and having your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings is the best way to prevent periodontal disease and potential tooth loss later in life."1

Because of the treatment of periodontal disease, Thrive wants to encourage owners to come into the clinic and have their pet’s dental wellness checked out. As an incentive, more than 150 primary care hospitals within Thrive Pet Healthcare's network are offering a $50 discount on dental cleanings through April 14, 2024.1 This promotion is exclusively for dental cleaning procedures and does not include costs for exams, tooth extractions, and oral surgeries. Thrive Plus members can save more with an additional 10% off dental cleanings and 10% off services like diagnostics and bloodwork.1

Overall, it is necessary to educate clients on the importance of dental wellness and the need for routine professional assessment of periodontal health,2 so use this month of National Pet Dental Health to raise awareness for your clients.


  1. Little dogs have smaller teeth, but bigger teeth problems. News release. Thrive Pet Healthcare. February 7, 2024. Accessed February 8, 2024. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/little-dogs-have-smaller-teeth-but-bigger-teeth-problems-302056466.html
  2. Enlund KB, Brunius C, Hanson J, et al. Dog Owners' Perspectives on Canine Dental Health-A Questionnaire Study in Sweden. Front Vet Sci. 2020;7:298. doi:10.3389/fvets.2020.00298
  3. Niemiec BA. Small Animal Dental, Oral, and Maxillofacial Disease: A Color Handbook. 2nd edition. CRC Press; 2011.
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