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Pet dental care: 7 steps to healthy teeth

“Lifting the lid” on my pets dental care comes naturally to me. Pop into my place on a weekend and you will no doubt catch me checking my pet’s mouth out at some point. “GROSS!” I hear you say, but did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from dental disease by the age of 3!? Three! And because I have been trained to know this, I want to help you become your pets dental technician. Time to check on their teeth and gum status – STAT!

1. Weekly teeth check

Stating today, set a moment aside each week to check your pets month. Getting the whole family involved and dedicated to this process will also help, making everyone a dental care advocate.

During your pets’ evening cuddle time is the perfect opportunity for this. Start by praising your pet for being calm and settled.

Then slowly raise the lip to examine the teeth and gums. Look for signs of dental disease such as red, inflamed or bleeding gums. You also want to check for any loose or broken teeth, especially in breeds that love to actively chew on items like tennis balls. While examining the mouth, take the smell challenge. Yep! Breathe it in. Often what we dismiss as ‘normal’ doggie breath, can actually be a warning sign of this disease.

If there are no signs of trouble, and your pet has amazing smelling breath, Perfect! Well done! If you notice any of the signs listed or you are unsure about what to look for, book a free dental examination with us and we can help you find the path to the pearly whites!

2. Behaviour changes

Have you ever had a problem tooth? That feeling of constant throb, ache, and pain? Most of us know that dental disease hurts! And it is no different for our pets. The constant pain with no relief often manifests in a change of behaviour. Reluctance to eat or play, become morose and reclusive, rub its face on the ground or paw its face regularly, drooling and even aggression are all signs there could be problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time for a veterinary check.

3. Did you know some pet breeds are more prone to dental disease than others?

Smaller breeds, such as Poodles, Maltese Terriers, and Chihuahuas, have more problems with dental disease than larger breeds. Pets with short noses such as Pugs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, the Pekinese and similar breeds are more prone to tooth decay because they have too many teeth for the amount of room in their small jaws. For the same reason, Persian and Abyssinian cats also have their share of tooth turmoil.

To assist these breeds in keeping their mouths in tip-top condition, many of them will require a full professional scale and polish at least once a year. However, regular home care may prevent problems developing.

4. Bones and good quality dry food

Our pets natural toothbrush, raw meaty bones! But, did you know that it’s not just the bone itself that is important, but the chunks of meat? While stripping the meat from the bone, your dog is flossing its teeth and removing tartar that often accumulates.

Types of bones: Firstly, any bone we give our pets must be RAW (never cooked). For cats and small dogs, chicken wings and necks are excellent. Meaty lamb shanks are our recommendation for medium and large sized dogs. Dental treats, such as Greenies and Dentastix, are ideal and, if your dog will eat them, the humble carrot can also act as a safe and wonderful toothbrush.

Dry Food: If your pet is fed a sole diet of soft food, changing to dry food can also assist in keeping teeth clean. Canned diets and other soft foods have no abrasive action to clean the teeth and can often adhere to the tooth surface.

There are also some really good, dental-specific, dry foods available that are just perfect for incorporating into your pets dental regime.


5. Regular Brushing

The gold standard of pet dental care is daily brushing. You will need to get your pet used to having their teeth brushed, but with little training, patience and persistence they will soon love their daily dose of chicken, beef or cheese flavour! But beware, if they anything like my baby, they may try to steal the toothpaste before you get a chance to brush!

6. Twice-A-Year Check-Ups

We bang on and on about these visits, remembering our pets age 5-7 years in one human year, so there is a method to our madness. Imagine not seeing your dentist for 7 years, trust me I know many of us don’t and I was one of them! I understand the importance of preventative dental care now, and it is no different in our pets. 6 monthly checks can assist in picking up the dental disease early, allowing your pet to hopefully keep most of their teeth into their senior years. Seeing your pet with 3-5 teeth remaining (remember dogs have 42 and cats have 30) after major dental surgery is never a good feeling, so spending the time to prevent that happening is not only the key but also worth its weight in gold

7. Dental Cleaning under anaesthesia

The only effective treatment for dental disease is a full assessment and clean under anaesthetic. This involves a pre-anaesthetic examination, removal of dental calculus and plaque from all surfaces of all teeth using an ultrasonic scaler – including beneath the sensitive gum line, flushing under the gum line to remove debris and bacteria, and polishing the surface of the teeth to make them smooth to inhibit the reformation of plaque. This is time consuming and detailed work.

Teeth with fractures, damaged roots or holes in the enamel need to be removed to prevent abscess formation, pain, discomfort and the risk of systemic infection.

Dogs with moderate to severe periodontal disease, or any concurrent disease, may require a course of antibiotics to help control the bacterial infection of the mouth.

Modern methods of anaesthesia routinely used at this clinic make anaesthetics very safe even in old pets or pets with other ongoing diseases. If you have any questions please discuss them with the duty veterinarian prior to surgery. The safety of an anaesthetic can be further increased by blood testing prior to the anaesthetic and intravenous fluids prior to or during the anaesthetic.

Before a dental procedure

After dental procedure

**Our thoughts on “anaesthetic free” dentals? The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) does not support it, and neither do we. Read More >>

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Pets Health is a full service animal hospital with clinics located in Hilton and O’Halloran Hill. We are dedicated to helping you keep your best mate happy and healthy through each stage of their life with compassionate and reassuring veterinary care.

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O’Halloran Hill Vet Centre

123 Main South Road
O’Halloran Hill, SA 5158

Hilton Vet Centre

142 Sir Donald Bradman Drive
Hilton, SA 5033