Doggy Breath or Dental Disaster?

Have you caught a whiff of something awful from your dog’s mouth recently? Have you noticed your cat is less interested in dried biscuits and would rather just eat soft jellymeat? Have you ever actually had a look inside your pet’s mouth?

Dental disease is extremely common in our pets, particularly in small breed dogs (under 10-15kg) and cats. Anyone who has experienced a toothache knows how painful it is, yet animals rarely display much pain when they have a sore tooth – in the wild their only options are to either carry on eating despite the pain or starve, so carry on they do. Often owners don’t see signs of dental disease in their pets until it is very severe. By this stage (something we see multiple times a week) we have to pull out rotten teeth, often in large numbers, because they are just too diseased to be able to fix them. Some animals barely have a tooth to their name by the time they reach their “teens”.

As with anything the best form of treatment is prevention! Checking your pet’s teeth every 3 months or so is a great idea to help prevent teeth getting to this point. There is no need to struggle around, trying to wrench open their mouth – most of the information you need is just under their lip. So have a go at “lifting the lip” and see what you find. Make sure you check the back teeth as this is where many of the problems occur.

Bella (one of our unofficial clinic mascots) is displaying here how to check your dog’s (or cat’s!) teeth.

Bella (one of our unofficial clinic mascots) is displaying here how to check your dog’s (or cat’s!) teeth.

Things you should be looking for include:

  • Brown/tan-coloured bits on parts or all of the tooth (their teeth should be as white as ours – the brown stuff is tartar)
  • Red/swollen/bleeding gums
  • Loose or infected teeth
  • Broken teeth

If you find signs of dental disease, the sooner you do something to reduce the tartar the better.

  • In animals prone to lots of tartar, brushing their teeth is ideal – using a soft children’s toothbrush and special animal toothpaste (which tastes good to them!) twice weekly is fantastic if you have the time and your pet will allow it.
  • For dogs that like to chew on things rawhide bones and large raw bones (which can’t be swallowed) are great as the chewing action actually helps to chip tartar off the back teeth.
  • If not, there are also special diets available that reduce the build up of tartar.

Unfortunately once teeth get to a certain stage, no amount of brushing or chewing will help – the only option is to have the teeth properly cleaned (just like going to the dentist, only the animals get to have an anaesthetic!). After a clean many of the above options will help to reduce the rate of tartar build up and make sure the dog or cat keeps their teeth!

Here are some before and after photos of some teeth we cleaned this month