Paws for Wellness A happy and healthy pet starts with a plan!

February is Pet Dental Month

Dog side profileConsistent, quality dental care is just as important for your pet’s health as it is for yours. You brush your teeth daily, floss, and see the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. You take care of any cavities or other dental issues as needed. You are proactive about your dental health, because you know dental issues can not only worsen if neglected, but that they can also be more difficult and costly to address later on.

The same is true for your pets. Regular, preventive dental care is key to good overall health, and to help maintain a full set of teeth and pain-free mouth. Periodontal disease, or more commonly, dental disease, is the gradual destruction of the teeth’s support structures, i.e. the gums and jawbone, over time. It starts with the accumulation of plaque that hardens into tartar, both above and below the gum line. Plaque and tartar above the gum line can usually be easily seen and removed, but accumulations below the gum line are much more damaging and challenging to treat.

Periodontal disease affects as many as 80% of dogs and 70% of cats as early as 3 years of age. It can lead to swollen and bleeding gums, loose teeth and tooth loss, pain and discomfort, difficulty eating, and infection and disease in other parts of the body, such as the liver and kidneys. Dental disease is the most common clinical condition in pets, and it is completely preventable. Improving your pet’s dental health is one of the best ways to prolong their life.

With February being pet dental health month, now is a great time to think about your pet’s oral healthcare routine. Although it is something we should all be doing for our pets all year round, when life gets busy things tend to fall by the wayside. Or maybe, like many pet owners, you are unaware of what you should be doing for your pet or unsure how to start caring for your pet’s teeth. The good news is that it is easy to start caring for your pet’s teeth with three easy steps:

Take a sniff

Bad breath is one of the first and most recognizable signs of dental disease in pets. If your pet has strong, foul-smelling breath, they probably have dental disease.

Flip a lip

Flip up your pet’s lips and check for plaque and tartar build up, and red, inflamed and/or bleeding gums. If you see these signs your dog may have early stages of dental disease.

See your veterinarian

Bring your pet into the veterinarian for a wellness check and dental examination. Regular exams can help to identify dental disease early and treat signs before they become irreversible. Your veterinarian will also be able to recommend an appropriate treatment plan for any dental issues they diagnose, as well as an at-home dental care routine for your pet.

To take care of your pet’s teeth at home, there are a number of products available and things you can do to maintain good oral care for your pets:

Brush your pet’s teeth daily

This is the gold standard for pet dental care. Although this may seem daunting or difficulty, with a consistent and gentle approach, most pets will become agreeable to daily teeth brushing- patience and training are key. Be sure to use a toothbrush specially formulated for your type of pet and their size, as well as toothpaste formulates specially for animals. Human toothpaste has ingredients in it that can make pets sick if swallowed.

Oral rinses and gels

These are similar to mouthwash for humans, but designed for dogs. They usually contain chlorhexidine, and effective anti-plaque agent that is safe for dogs to swallow.

Specially-formulated diets and chew treats

These usually have a specific kibble design and/or anti-tartar ingredients to help remove plaque from the teeth and reduce the formation of tartar.

Chew Toys

These can help with plaque control, but must be chewed frequently and for extended periods of time to be effective

Water additives

These are added to your dog’s drinking water, and are designed to reduce plaque and tartar as your dog drinks and the additive coats his teeth.

Look for products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance when considering dental health products for your pet. These products have been proven to slow the development of plaque and/or tartar in pets.

With some patience and persistence, and the help of your veterinarian, it is possible to take good care of your pet’s dental health. Committing to providing quality and consistent dental care for your pet will help them live a longer, healthier and pain-free life!


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Meet Our Team

  • Dr. Laura  Neuhaus (Raiff) Photo
    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)


    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
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    Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer


    A Virginia native, Dr. Mitchell Meyerhoeffer (Dr. M is fine!) started his career in the veterinary field in high school at Chesterfield Technical Center's veterinary science program. He completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Virginia Commonwealth University while working as a veterinary assistant in a specialty and emergency hospital. Dr. M then completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine training at Virginia Tech, enjoying the hiking and outdoor scenery in Blacksburg when he could ...
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    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    Veterinary Assistant

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    Treatment Team Lead

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Kennel Care Team

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    Professional Groomer

    I'm Aidan, and I'm not your typical groomer. I'm a passionate animal lover with a heart full of love for our furry friends. Every day, I get the incredible opportunity to work my magic as a groomer at the renowned Grafton Animal Hospital. I can't express just how much I adore what I do. It's not just a job; it's a calling. I find immense joy in transforming your beloved pets into the best versions of themselves. Whether it's a shaggy dog that needs a fresh haircut, a cat in need of a spa day, or ...
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    Practice Manager

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    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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    Grooming Manager

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    Kennel Care Team

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