Oral disease is one of the most common health problems treated in pets, with 80% of dogs and 70% of cats displaying signs of gum disease by the time they are three. All pets are at risk of developing dental problems, although small dog breeds and some breeds of cats are more likely to develop dental disease as their teeth are often overcrowded.

Oral disease begins with a build-up of bacteria in the pet’s mouth. This bacteria combined with saliva and food debris between the teeth and gums causes plaque to form on the tooth surface.

As the bacteria grow in the plaque and calcium salts are deposited, this plaque turns to tartar. If the tartar isn’t removed from the teeth, pockets of pus may appear along the gum line and further separate the teeth from the gum, which allows more food and bacteria to accumulate. Without treatment, this plaque and tartar build up may cause irreversible periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease causes red and swollen gums. The gums often recede and bleeding is common. Bone destruction and tooth loss combined with severe pain and infection is often seen at this stage.

Pets with dental disease can suffer from other illnesses when the bacteria from infected teeth and gums enters the bloodstream. The bacteria travels throughout the body, negatively impacting vital organs such as the heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.

Signs of irreversible dental disease

  • Bad Breath.
  • Yellow/brown crust around gums and teeth.
  • Pain when eating.
  • Pawing at the mouth.
  • Change in chewing and/or eating habits.
  • Loose, cracked and worn teeth.
  • Subdued behaviour.
  • Excessive drooling.

Once your pet displays these signs, serious dental disease is likely to be present. Don’t wait for the signs to appear, ensure your pet has a regular yearly dental check-up with your veterinarian.

So what can we do to prevent oral disease?

Before we domesticated the family pooch and puss they were hunting animals. Tearing at carcasses no doubt kept their teeth cleaner than today’s tinned and dry food. So what can we do to prevent oral disease in our pets?

Preventative dental care is best started when the tooth surface is clean. Beginning some form of dental care when your pet is a puppy or kitten is ideal but after a dental scale and polish is the next best time.

There are an abundance of products on the market, such as dental water additives, dental diets, toothbrushes and pastes, toys and chews etc. which can help you maintain your pet’s oral health.

We recommend discussing your pet’s dental health with your veterinarian before deciding on a particular product. During a preventative dental care examination your veterinarian will assess your pet’s oral health and may recommend treatment to take care of any dental problems which may be present. They will also be able to recommend a homecare plan based on your circumstances and pet’s needs.