Protecting your pet’s teeth and gums is essential to their health and wellbeing. It prevents chronic diseases and pain for your pet. Dental treatment for your pet at the vet is expensive – it is better for you and your pet to help prevent dental disease rather than fix issues after the problem.

Talk to one of our Just for Pets Pet Health Centre experts at Pets Unleashed to see what simple things you can do to ensure your pet stays as healthy as possible.

Your pet’s dental health

Recent research shows that up to 85% of animals aged 3 years and over are now affected by dental disease, with small breeds of dogs and cats showing more vulnerability.

Protecting your pets dental health is critical to maintain it’s health. ‘Doggie breath’ is not normal. Bad breath is often a first symptom of dental disease. Two-thirds of your pet’s tooth is not visible. Dental disease exists under the gum-line so you often can’t see it if it’s there.

What is dental disease?

As with human teeth, dental disease is caused when residual food, bacteria and calcium deposits form plaque and tartar on your pet’s teeth. Failure to address these problems may result in bacteria carried into your pet’s bloodstream, causing severe, long-term oral health issues – related to the heart, liver, kidney and joints – that are sometimes fatal.

Dental care can be expensive, so it’s best to look after your pet’s teeth and prevent disease from the outset.

How can I tell if my dog has a dental disease?

Watch for any of the following symptoms that may indicate a problem in your dog’s mouth:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, inflamed or bleeding gums
  • A build-up of plaque and stains on teeth
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Lethargy or reluctance to play with toys
  • ‘Chattering’ of the teeth when trying to eat
  • Mouth hanging open, with tongue protruding
  • Dropping food when eating
  • Loose or eroded teeth
  • Cysts under the tongue
  • Tumours in the gums

If your dog suffers from any of these symptoms, dental disease may be present

Dental Diseases in Dogs

  • Periodontal disease is a painful infection between the tooth and the gum that can spread to the rest of the body and may result in tooth loss. Signs are bad breath, tooth pain, loose teeth, sneezing and nasal discharge.
  • Gingivitis is gum inflammation caused mainly by accumulation of plaque, tartar and disease-producing bacteria above and below the gum line. Signs include bleeding, red, swollen gums and bad breath. Regular teeth cleanings can reverse Gingivitis.
  • Halitosis (bad breath) can be caused by gum infection or bacteria growing from food particles caught between the teeth. Regular teeth cleanings can manage this as well.
  • Swollen gums develop when tartar builds up and food gets stuck between the teeth.
  • Mouth tumours appear as lumps in the gums. Some are malignant and must be surgically removed.
  • Salivary cysts look like large blisters filled with fluid and positioned under the tongue, but can also develop near the corners of the jaw. They need drainage, and if the saliva gland is damaged, it must be removed.

How can I tell if my cat has a dental disease?

Watch for any of the following signs that could indicate problems in your cat’s mouth:

  • Dark red line along the gums
  • Development of lesions, inflammation, swelling and bleeding on gums
  • Ulcers on gums or tongue
  • Loose or eroded teeth
  • Yellowish-brown tartar on teeth
  • Difficulty chewing food, a poor appetite or ‘chattering’ of the teeth when trying to eat
  • Lethargy or a reluctance to play with toys
  • Failing to groom
  • Lip smacking
  • Pus
  • Bad breath
  • Increased drooling
  • Excessive pawing at the mouth area
  • Rejection of hard or crunchy foods in preference for tinned or soft food
  • Using one side of the mouth and dropping food while chewing

Symptoms of dental disease in cats

If your cat suffers from any of the symptoms mentioned below, dental disease may be present:

  • Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums mainly seen in older cats, starting as a dark red line bordering on the teeth. If left untreated, gums may become sore and ulceration can occur. In cats This may be also a sign of Feline Immunodeficiency Virus or some other infection.
  • Periodontitis can result if gingivitis invades the tooth socket, where the tooth becomes loose and an abscess forms.
  • Stomatitis is where the mouth lining inflames as a result from a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease or dental problems.
  • Salivary cyst results as a cyst forming under the tongue when the salivary glands or ducts that carry saliva to the mouth become blocked.
  • Mouth ulcers are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease and appear as ulcers on a cat’s tongue and gums.

Prevention is better than cure

Your pet’s dental care is an important part of their health. Dental disease progresses in stages – if caught early, you can prevent further damage and save as many teeth as possible.

Prevention is achieved by paying close attention to your pet’s diet; regular access to special dental treats, chews, and dental water additives; regular brushing with pet toothpaste and toothbrushes and rinsing with special gels. Some super premium foods are designed to help clean your pets teeth and gums as they eat.

Prevention is always better than cure. Start when they are young if possible and make it an enjoyable activity for your pet.