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Know Your Gnashers

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Has your pet got really bad breath? Not just a little…ripe but really, really awful? The chances are, the answer is yes.  Around 80% of pets over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease.

Yet dental disease in our pets is often regarded as unimportant.

What actually is dental disease?

There are several different stages in the development of dental disease, also sometimes known as Periodontal disease.

Initially, food particles and bacteria will accumulate along the pet’s gum line and form plaque. Over time, this hardens into calculus. This in turn irritates the gums and leads to a condition known as Gingivitis.

Eventually, the calculus builds up between the gum and the teeth, leaving space for bacterial growth. At this point, the damage done to the pet’s teeth is irreversible. The Periodontal disease may progress to include the destruction of bone and tissue in the mouth.


The long term effects of dental disease:

Bacteria from dental diseases can enter the bloodstream and travel to major organs like the heart and kidneys, compromising organ function and making your pet seriously ill.

Undetected dental disease can also mean your pet is struggling to eat and living in silent misery.

Should I see a vet about my pet’s teeth?

You should definitely arrange to see a vet if your pet:

  •     Has bad breath
  •     Has changed their eating habits or seems to be struggling to eat
  •     Drools a lot
  •     Has a yellowish crust of tartar along their gum line
  •     Is showing signs of pain or discomfort in their mouth
  •     Has any broken teeth or inflamed gums

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What if my pet needs dental treatment?

It’s important that your pet has checks every six months for a vet to look at their teeth. Taking action at an early stage means that we can stop the problem before it becomes irreversible.

It also means that your pet should only need a scale and polish for their treatment.  If their dental issues are at an advanced stage, it may be necessary for them to have extractions.

Tips for good pet dental health:

  •     Brushing your pet’s teeth – more on this further down the page
  •     Take advantage of your pet’s natural inclination to chew by giving them dental chews
  •     Check your pet’s mouth regularly
  •     Some dog breeds, especially small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, are particularly prone to dental issues
  •     You can purchase some special designed diets to promote good dental health. If your pet is prone to dental problems, it may be worth investing in this to help their long term health

Preventative dental care:

While we can step in to help, you are the vital in ensuring that your pet maintains good dental care.

Tooth brushing is the best way of ensuring this. Like most things, it’s important to get into this habit early, preferably when your pet is a puppy or kitten. The idea is not to turn this into a battle, but introduce it in a calm, structured way which means you pet does not dread it!

Ideally, tooth brushing should be done daily, but however many times you manage it will be of great benefit.

You can buy special pet toothpaste in meat or fish flavours that should be tasty for your pet. NEVER use human toothpaste on them as it contains fluoride, which is toxic to them.

You don’t have to be quite as thorough as you might be for your own teeth – only brush the outside of their teeth. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend trying to brush the inside of your pet’s teeth as most of them will not tolerate it.

The Dogs Trust have put together a great step by step guide for learning to brush your dog's teeth (complete with video).

A number of our practices also run free dental clinics. Simply call your practice to book your clinic visit where a member of staff will be very happy to give you a tooth-brushing demonstration and offer advice and tips.


If you think your pet has dental problems (or any other issue), please contact your local Medivet practice for advice by using our online practice finder.  

Posted September 16, 2014 in Pet Care Advice

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