Just like humans, pets’ teeth need looking after too!  Dental disease is the Number 1 most common disease that impacts our pets. It is also the Number 1 cause of chronic pain and chronic inflammation. It is also the disease most easily overlooked.

The health of their teeth and gums has a significant impact on their overall quality of life. Imagine how your mouth would feel, and smell, if you never brushed your teeth. 

Dental disease typically begins with a build-up of plaque, consisting of a number of different types of bacteria, on the teeth. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface and, if not removed, will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus). This appears as a yellow-brown material on the teeth. Over time the plaque infiltrates under the gumline, causing gingivitis and will result in periodontal disease, causing irreversible changes to the teeth and supportive structures.

Ultimately, dental disease is more than just a cosmetic issue – it can be a cause of significant illness and pain in dogs and cats.

Common signs of dental disease include:

  • Yellow-brown tartar around the gum line
  • Inflamed, red gums
  • Bad breath
  • Change in eating or chewing habits (especially in cats)
  • Pawing at the face or mouth, may also be associated with hair loss around the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth
  • Reduction in play
  • Behavioural changes; aggression, reduction in grooming, disturbed sleep
  • Changes in feeding; preferring soft foods, dropping food around the bowl, swallowing food without chewing

If your pet is showing any of these signs of dental disease please book an appointment to see one of our veterinarians. Early assessment and action can save your pet’s teeth!

Some animals with dental disease may show no obvious signs particularly in the early stages. It is also important to remember that just because your pet is eating, it doesn’t mean they do not have dental pain.


How can I prevent dental disease?

One of the ways you can prevent dental disease is to utilise pet safe toys and foods for your pet. The enamel layer that protects our pets teeth is only 1mm thick (ours is 3mm thick!). This means it can be easily damaged by toys or treats that are very hard (such as bones) or abrasive (such as tennis balls!). 

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. However, it is important to note that if your pet already has signs of dental disease these options are not suitable until after your pet has had a dental procedure under general anaesthetic.

Dental home care may include:

Brushing Teeth Daily

Just like us! This is the best form of dental hygiene. Pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are now available. Please do not use human toothpaste formulas as they are not designed to be swallowed and may be toxic to your pet.

Tooth brushing is best introduced after your pet is 8-9 months of age. This is because teething can be painful, and we don't want to associate toothbrushing with pain!

Teeth Friendly Chews 

Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning treats, all of which may help keep the teeth clean. These should be applied daily and help slow the accumulation of plaque.

NOTE: very hard chews can cause damage to teeth. The perfect consistency of treat should have a visible indentation after you push your fingernail into it. 

Dental Diets

Feed pets special dental diets. This can help reduce the accumulation of plaque. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VHOC) seal when you are considering trying a new dental treat or diet. This seal will indicate whether the product has proven to be effective in treating dental disease!

As with most things in life, when it comes to dental disease, prevention is definitely better than cure. 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.

What does a professional dental clean involve?

It is similar to a scale and polish done by a dentist for us, however, unlike us, our pets won’t sit still or open their mouth to allow a comprehensive examination or cleaning of their teeth. For this reason our pets need to have a general anaesthetic for a professional dental assessment, dental x-rays and clean. Your pet will need to be assessed by one of our veterinarians. The degree of dental disease will be assessed to determine what type of treatment is required.


It is important to note that the only way to adequately assess your pet's mouth is under general anaesthesia. Anaesthesia-free dental procedures are cosmetic only and do not address dental pain or infection. 

The assessment will also include a physical exam, and possibly blood tests and urine tests to ensure they are healthy prior to having an anaesthetic. Once anaesthetised, we can give the teeth a thorough cleaning using our specialised dental equipment. When your pet goes home we will also discuss methods of reducing dental disease in the future.

If you have any questions about dental care or professional cleaning please do not hesitate to contact us.