As a loving pet parent, you naturally want to keep your dogs, cats or other furry friends as healthy and happy as possible. While you may be feeding them a nutritious diet and making sure they get enough exercise, are you also looking after their teeth?
Just like humans, animals are at risk of dental problems and related health concerns if their teeth and gums aren’t well maintained. The good news is, most of these problems can be prevented when you take care of their oral hygiene.
Why is my pet’s oral health important?
Keeping your pet’s mouth clean and healthy is important for more reasons than just improving their breath (though that’s a bonus!)
Tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease can permanently damage their teeth and even lead to tooth loss if the problem isn’t treated. This can put your pet at risk of infections and can affect their ability to eat. It’s estimated that dental disease can shorten an animal’s life by three to five years.
Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth abscesses forming and has been linked with nasal infections, oral cancers and systemic diseases affecting major organs such as the heart, kidney and liver. It’s also been linked with diabetes in cats.
How can I tell if my dog or cat has gum disease?
It’s important that you check your pet’s teeth and gums regularly, especially if it’s been a while since their last check-up with the vet. Some of the common warning signs that your pet might have gum disease are:
- persistent bad breath
- red or swollen gums
- brown plaque or tartar on their teeth
- avoiding hard or crunchy foods
- pawing at their mouth or face
Smaller dog breeds, such as dachshunds, poodles and terriers, seem to be at higher risk of developing gum disease than larger dogs. The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of gum disease by two to three years of age.
How can I keep my pet’s teeth clean?
In its early stage (gingivitis), gum disease is usually fully reversible just by improving your dog or cat’s oral hygiene.
You can brush their teeth using specialised dog and cat toothbrushes, or rub their mouths with a finger cloth until they get used to the brush. Pet-friendly toothpastes are available, as you should never use a fluoride toothpaste intended for humans. Many vets recommend that you start brushing your pet’s teeth from as early as six months old.
Some brands of dry dog and cat food also help to remove plaque from the teeth through abrasive rubbing when eaten, while dental treats and chews are formulated with nutrients that help protect their teeth against plaque.
Do animals need to visit the dentist?
Just like their owners, pets benefit from regular appointments to have their teeth and gums checked – though this should be with a veterinarian rather than a dentist. Depending on your vet’s expertise, you may also be encouraged to bring in your rabbit, guinea pig or more exotic pets to have their teeth checked too.
During their appointment, your vet will inspect their mouths, which may involve the use of x-rays and ultrasound. They may also clean and scale their teeth to remove plaque, which might require sedation under general anaesthesia. Your vet will explain any risks and side-effects involved before you agree to any dental treatments or sedation.
As with your own oral health, you shouldn’t wait until your pets start to show signs of a problem to get their teeth checked by a professional. Many animals are good at hiding their pain and discomfort, so a full health check at least once a year or more frequently can help their vet catch and treat any possible problems before they have the chance to become serious.
Contact our dentists in Melbourne
Is it time for your dental check-up, or do you need to speak to a dentist in Brunswick or Kew about any issue? Make an appointment with our team at All Day EveryDay Dental.
Call us on (03) 9853 1811 or get in touch online.
 American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC). Periodontal Disease (Online) 2011 (Accessed October 2017) Available from: https://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html
 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Your pet’s bad breath is no laughing matter (Online) 2012 (Accessed October 2017) Available from: https://www.avma.org/News/PressRoom/Pages/Your-pet-s-bad-breath-is-.aspx