From a young age, we learn that looking after our teeth and yearly dental check-ups are extremely important for maintaining optimal dental health. However, we aren’t always told that it’s just as important for our beloved pets to have similar care and treatment! Periodontal disease is preventable in pets, and with proper dental care you can prevent your pet from developing a wide variety of dental health issues (and pain) related to the condition.

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What is dental disease?

Just like in humans, dental disease in animals is caused by the build-up of dental plaque and tartar on the teeth, which triggers inflammation and can negatively affect the health of the teeth, gums and surrounding bone structures. The mouth begins to smell, and it is often incredibly painful for our companions with some pets stopping eating to minimise pain they feel when chewing. In turn, weight loss can be the first obvious health issue however, without veterinary treatment, dental disease can also lead to gum infections, bone loss, loss of teeth and over time, other serious health problems.

What are the causes of dental disease?

The main cause of dental disease is a lack of mechanical action on the teeth, however certain breeds are predisposed to the disease due to a maligned bite, genetics, and/or the shape of the mouth.

Canine breeds include the following:

  • Pug
  • Collie
  • Yorkie
  • Chihuahua
  • Dachshund
  • Boxer

Feline breeds include:

  • Balinese
  • Burmese
  • Exotic short/long hair
  • Himalayan
  • Oriental short/long hair
  • Persian
  • Siamese
  • Tonkinese

Generally, these are small, toy, or brachycephalic breeds with a shortened snout (brachycephalic).

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How do you know if your pet has dental disease?

The main indication of periodontal disease in pets is halitosis, or bad breath. Unfortunately, it can often take years for us to realise that the smell is in fact bacteria and infection coming from inside the mouth, as we pass this off as normal “dog or cat breath”.

Other clinical signs to look out for include:

  • Not eating
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Excessive saliva / drool (possibly blood tinged)
  • Bleeding gums
  • Change in behaviour
  • Abnormal discharge from the mouth
  • Favouring one side of the mouth for chewing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Inability to open or close the mouth
  • A mass or growth inside the mouth or under the eye

If any of these signs are present, you should consult your vet immediately.

How is dental disease treated?

Depending on what stage the periodontal disease is at when first diagnosed, will determine treatment. Halitosis can be treatable and is considered curable with regular (2-3 times per week) brushing and good oral health care such as a premium dental diet. If the dental grade has reached stage two or higher, the damage from the periodontal disease is irreversible and requires more intensive maintenance to prevent further deterioration.

Stage 1: Early periodontitis can be treated with professional dental cleaning to remove any plaque accumulation. You can also try veterinary recommended dental diets or brushing your pets’ teeth with an animal safe toothpaste and brush.

Stages 2 & 3: The teeth require a deep scaling and polishing, both above and below the gumline, to remove the build-up of plaque and tartar. Polishing will create a smooth tooth surface that makes it more difficult for plaque and bacteria to stick to the tooth.  Stages 2 and 3 of periodontal disease don’t necessary look visibly different from a conscious assessment, but an x-ray will show a greater loss of bone at Stage 3.

Stage 4: If the disease has reached this point, it is likely the pet requires several extractions as a result of damage to the structures that support them.

To find out what stage your pets’ dental disease is and what treatment is recommended, contact your veterinarian for a dental check.

How can you prevent dental disease in pets?

Some dental hygiene tools work better on some species and breeds than others and therefore regular dental checks with your veterinarian are important to monitor for signs of onset periodontal disease or progression.

As much as dental disease can be managed if caught in the early stages, there are things at home you can do to support your much-loved family members dental health…

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Brushing teeth

The gold standard care that you can do for your pet is performing daily teeth brushing (just like for us humans). Despite this being the best dental hygiene care we can offer our pets, it is also the least performed strategy. Training your pet to handle teeth brushing when they are young is key and can be what saves them from needing regular dental prophylaxes throughout their lifetime.

Premium dental diets

Premium dental diets are designed to be fed every day and see plaque and tartar formation reduced by more than 60% compared with regular diets thanks to specially shaped kibble. The texture and shape of the kibble produce a gentle abrasive effect on the teeth during chewing to help reduce dental plaque and tartar.

Our dental diet recommendations that have been clinically proven to reduce gingivitis and the build-up of tartar, plaque, and help fight bad breath include:

  • Hills T/D Canine/Feline
  • Royal Canin Veterinary Clinical Dental

Dental Chews

Similarly to dental diets, dental chews and treats are designed to mechanically remove dental plaque and tartar by encouraging your pet to chew.

Oral Rinses

The mind may initially boggle at the thought, but dog mouthwashes can be as simple as additives to your dog’s drinking water or oral rinses like Hexarinse which are easily be applied with the spray applicator. These specially designed formulas are harmless if swallowed but provide an antiseptic that kills the bacteria that causes plaque and can aid in decreasing bad breath.

A combination of all the prevention methods is in most cases the best choice however, regular professional dental scale & polish may be still required for many pets regardless of homecare.

To find out more around their dental hygiene and the best solutions for your pet, we recommended booking an online appointment to speak with a Your PetPA veterinarian or nurse via our website or App.

Find all your pet’s dental care needs on Your PetPA online store. Thriving Pets+ members receive 10% discount on all purchases.