Pets Need Dental Care Too!

Did you know that dental disease is the most common disease diagnosed in dogs and cats? It affects 80% dogs and 70% cats by the time they are 3 years old. Signs of dental disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Brown tartar on teeth
  • Red, sore or bleeding gums
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Pain on touching the face or while eating
  • Reduced appetite
  • Coughing, gagging or sneezing

If left untreated, dental disease can cause your pet significant pain through tooth decay and infection. In severe cases, it may even become life-threatening as bacteria in the mouth enter the bloodstream via the gums and spread to the heart, kidneys and liver.

How Does Tartar Form?

Plaque is an invisible film that starts forming on teeth a few hours after a meal. Within 24 hours, plaque starts to harden into tartar. As the tartar deposits get larger, they push the gums away from the roots of the teeth, causing inflammation and infection of the gums as well as loosening the teeth in their sockets.

What Can We Do?

Like us, pets need regular attention paid to their teeth. Imagine not brushing your teeth for years and think about how much plaque and tartar would build up! Then imagine having a severe toothache that you can’t tell anyone about. But this scenario can be avoided with regular dental care.

Dental care for your pet at home can take many forms, including:

  • Daily brushing
  • Oral gels/rinses
  • Dental diets
  • Dental chews

By using one or more of the above home-care dental products, you will maximize the chances of your pet keeping healthy, pain-free teeth and fresh breath. All of these methods contribute to preventing the development or progression of dental disease, however if your pet is displaying any of the above symptoms, advanced dental disease may already be present. In this case, it is advisable to make a free appointment to have your pet’s teeth assessed. As with people, some animals are genetically prone to developing dental disease seemingly regardless of what their well-meaning owners do. For these animals, regular teeth cleaning under general anaesthetic may be required every 12 months or so. Many people are surprised at how much happier their pet is after having their teeth professionally cleaned and say they didn’t realize how much their teeth were affecting their quality of life. While dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed condition in domestic dogs and cats, it is also one of the most treatable and it is NEVER too late, so don’t despair! Please call Figtree Vet Clinic on 9428 4700 if you would like to discuss dental care options or to make an appointment to have your pet’s teeth checked.

Daily Brushing

Brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective means of removing plaque before it turns into tartar. This is achieved by using toothpaste specifically designed for animals. There are also special toothbrushes available that can make the job easier. Choose a time your pet is relaxed and start slowly by rubbing your finger over a couple of teeth, then gradually increase the number of teeth “brushed” until you accessing the whole mouth (don’t forget the teeth right at the back and right at the front!). You only need to brush the outer surface of the teeth – the tongue keeps the inner surface clean. Once your pet tolerates your finger in his/her mouth, you can make your finger slightly more abrasive by putting a coarse stocking over your hand & repeating the process. You can then graduate to using a toothbrush. By starting slowly, & rewarding you pet every time he/she allows you to touch their teeth, almost all pets can have their teeth brushed. A great video demonstrating this in action can be found at

Oral Gels/Rinses

Oral rinses like MaxiGuard Oral Cleansing Gel or Hexarinse can be squirted or rubbed onto your pet’s teeth each day to kill bacteria & reduce plaque formation. These may be an easier option for pets who won’t accept tooth-brushing. Because bacteria and plaque is where dental disease all begins, removing them from teeth results in better smelling breath, less gingivitis & less periodontal disease.

Dental Diets

While dry food is definitely better than wet foods for preventing tartar build up, most dry foods shatter as the dog or cat chews. Royal Canin Dental & Hills t/d are designed specifically for managing dogs and cats with dental disease. The fibres within each pellet are formulated into a special matrix that scrapes at the teeth as your pet is chewing. The best effects are seen when this is fed as the sole diet. All Royal Canin & Hills foods come with a money-back palatability guarantee, so if your pet refuses to eat it, please return it for a full refund.

Dental Chews e.g. Oravet chews, Greenies

Oravet & Greenies chews can be given as a treat every 1-2 days and are scientifically proven to reduce tartar accumulation on the teeth. They are much more effective than the dental chews or raw hide strips that you can buy at the supermarket. The chews come in a range of different sizes to accommodate different breeds and Greenies are available for cats too. Oravet & Greenies taste GREAT!

Raw Bones (never feed cooked bones)

The feeding of raw bones is controversial in the veterinary world. While it is clear that chewing raw bones helps to remove the tartar buildup on the crown of the tooth, it actually does not reduce the incidence of gum disease. Chewing raw bones can also lead to complications such as broken teeth and potentially dangerous stomach upsets. In some cases, ‘fussy eaters’ refuse to eat raw bones, so this may not be an option for all animals. To increase your pet’s chances of accepting raw bones, introduce them early in life.

If you do choose to feed raw bones, a common mistake many owners make is to cut the bones up for their pet. To get any benefit from raw bones, your pet needs to actually use their teeth! So feed a bone that is an appropriate size – your pet needs to be chewing on a raw bone for at least 20 minutes, once or twice a week for them to be of benefit.