Pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. About 80% of dogs and 70% of cats that are not on a proper dental care program, will suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of two.
How dental disease in pets develops
A build-up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth forms plaque. Plaque, if not removed, will calcify into tartar or calculus and appears as a yellow-brown material on your pet's teeth. Dental disease in many pets has the potential to shorten your pet's life span
Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible damage to occur. These include:
- Destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth
- Tooth loss, gum infection and pain.
- A source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidneys, liver and heart,) this can make your pet seriously ill
How do I know if my pet has dental disease?
Some signs that your dog may be suffering from dental disease include:
- Bad breath
- Inflamed gums
- Plaque and calculus build up
- Swollen jaw
- Trouble chewing
We recommend that your pet have a dental check performed by one of our Sydney Animal Hospitals Veterinarians regularly and if necessary, following up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised (usually a simple procedure) to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing the pet. Placing your pet under anaesthesia is the safest way to perform a pet dental procedure.
At Sydney Animal Hospitals, a complete dental examination includes:
- Charting all your pet's present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.
- Removal of tartar above your pet's gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for your teeth.
- Polishing your pet's teeth using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste.
- If certain teeth appear to be an issue we perform dental radiographs - these radiographs tell us if the affected teeth need to be extracted due to bone loss below the gum line
- In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure.
Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
Dental hygiene for your pet
Daily brushing is the best form of dental hygiene for long-term prevention of dental disease.
- Start when your pet is at a young age so they become used to the process - but it's never too late to start!
- Ask us about pet toothbrushes and pet toothpaste - do not use human toothpaste formulas as these can be toxic
- With caution, feed your pet raw and meaty bones. You'll need to ensure bones are suitable for your pet. Please ask for advice before giving your pet a bone. Some bones may cause harm.
- Use enzymatic chews or teeth cleaning biscuits to help keep your pet's teeth clean.
- Provide a constantly refreshed supply of water in a clean bowl. As with humans, when cats are dehydrated their breath will smell. Their sense of smell knows when the water is not fresh.
Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic and will also improve your pet's overall health.
Over 80% of dogs develop dental disease by the age of three.
If you notice your dog has bad breath, discoloured or loose teeth, or a change in their appetite or behaviour - chances are your best friend may be experiencing the pain and discomfort of dental disease.
So what is dental disease? It begins when bacteria in your dog’s mouth accumulate on their teeth forming plaque which sticks to the surface of the teeth. Saliva in the mouth then causes the plaque to harden into tartar which becomes firmly attached to the teeth causing discolouration and disease.
The unsightly tartar build up on your dog’s teeth can often be an obvious indication of dental disease, however it’s what happens to the nearby gum tissue that’s also of concern. Bacteria creep into the gum tissue around the teeth causing inflammation and infection – referred to as gingivitis. This causes pain and discomfort in the mouth, and can damage and erode the teeth.
BEFORE DENTAL TREATMENT: Close up of a dog’s mouth showing plaque and tartar build-up on several teeth.
AFTER DENTAL TREATMENT: Close up of a dog’s mouth showing clean teeth after a dental scale and polish procedure.
Dogs with dental disease are also at risk of developing infections elsewhere in the body because bacteria in the gum tissue can enter the bloodstream, potentially causing problems with your dog’s heart, liver and kidneys. Some breeds of dog can be more at risk of developing dental disease due to the shape of their mouth. Older dogs are also at greater risk, because their immune systems may be less able to withstand the impact of bacteria entering the bloodstream.
of dental disease can sometimes be difficult to see, but the good news is that
we’re here to help.
How do we treat and prevent dental disease in dogs?
Having an annual dental check and ongoing dental care for your dog can help prevent teeth and gum issues. Once we’ve determined the extent of any dental disease in your dog’s mouth, our friendly team can help to advise you on the best options to treat and prevent dental disease - and the pain and discomfort it causes to your best friend.
Dog dental care includes scale and polish procedures to clean and treat your dog’s teeth, plus considering regular use of dental chews and special dental foods which can help prevent dental disease.
Veterinary treatment – dental scale and polish
Your veterinarian is your pet’s dentist, and they’re available to examine your dog’s mouth and perform professional teeth cleaning and treatment. A dental scale and polish procedure involves your pet undergoing a short anaesthetic. The procedure involves a thorough mouth examination, and then an ultrasonic scaler is used to clean the plaque and tartar off the teeth. During this process, any infected or loose teeth can be identified and if necessary, removed.
We can also use x-rays to assess the teeth and nearby jaw bone health. If any tooth extractions are required, our vets will ensure your pet is pain free by providing pain relief medication and often use local anaesthetic around the affected tooth. A dog dental scale and polish procedure is usually a day procedure in the veterinary hospital, which means your pet will be ready to return home the same day for lots of hugs and pats!
Prevention strategies to keep your dog’s mouth healthy
There are several things you can do to help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar on your dog’s teeth and prevent the development of dental disease.
Dog dental chews – we all know dogs love to chew, and there are several brands of dental chews available which can help reduce tartar build up. The way these dental chews work is that they become sticky when chewed by your dog, and this draws plaque and tartar off the teeth helping to keep the teeth clean.
Teeth brushing – much like people brushing their teeth to keep them clean, you can also brush your dog’s teeth using a dog tooth brush and special dog toothpaste. This mechanical brushing action against the teeth surface will help slow the build-up of plaque and tartar. When you book in for your free vet nurse dog dental check, ask us to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth.
Feeding a healthy mouth – an easy way to help prevent the development of dental disease in your dog, is to consider feeding them a specially formulated dog dental biscuit diet, such as Hill’s™ Dental Care t/d Biscuits. When your dog chews these special dog biscuits, as they crunch them up the biscuits help to abrade the surface of the teeth reducing the amount of plaque and tartar on the teeth – slowing the development of dental disease. Watch a video how this works here – come and visit one of our hospitals to purchase this for your dog.
Contact your nearest Sydney Animal Hospital to book your dental check, so we can examine your pet’s mouth and help you with advice to prevent the development of dental disease. Bookings are essential.