Dental Disease in Pets

Dental disease is an all too common problem in our pets and can have a real impact on their health and wellbeing. Up to 70% of cats and 80% of dogs show some sign of dental disease by the age of two! An initial buildup of tartar causes painful inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis, and as the tartar and decay gets worse, more severe disease is likely develop.

The Effects of Dental Disease

Unfortunately, bad breath is not the only result of dirty teeth and infected gums. Moderate and advanced dental disease can be very painful, resulting in discomfort when eating, drooling, reduced playing, decreased appetite and tooth abscesses can form. The mouth also has a very good blood supply and when the gums become inflamed bacteria from the mouth may enter the blood stream and travel around the body. This in can result in:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver infection

These diseases can all be very serious and even fatal, thus looking after your pet’s oral health is very important.


Once the teeth develop tartar, only a scale and polish under anaesthetic can clean the teeth properly. If this is left too long and the disease progresses, then some teeth may need to be removed. Your local Vetlife vet/vet nurse can assess your pet and provide customised advice on the best options for your pet.

Prevention of dental disease

It is an excellent idea to try to prevent problems from developing from a young age or after the teeth have been properly cleaned at the vets. There are several options available:

1. Tooth Brushing: This is the absolute best thing that you can do though not all animals will tolerate brushing and it can take a lot of patience to begin with. It is best to start at a young age. Ideally, teeth should be brushed daily. Special “enzymatic” pet toothpaste that has a meaty flavour can be used with your pet first getting used to the flavour by licking it off your finger as a treat. To begin with, your finger can be used to spread the toothpaste all over your pet’s teeth and finally a pet toothbrush can be used. Vetlife has an excellent handout on how to introduce your pet to toothbrushing.

2. Dental Diets: Although dry food may be slightly better than wet food, only specially formulated “dental diets” such as Hills T/D properly clean your pet’s teeth. This is because the kibble does not shatter like normal dry biscuits. Instead it remains intact and rubs against the whole tooth much like a toothbrush, helping to remove any plaque that may have built up. A special antioxidant formula further helps reduce the progression of dental disease.

3. Dental Chews: some dogs are great at chewing and with these animals, giving them special dental chews as treats is a great way to get them to “brush” their own teeth. It is important that the right sized chew is given. We would recommend bones are not given because of the risk of swallowing a large chunk or splinters, both of which can cause intestinal obstructions.

Please feel free to contact Vetlife to arrange a dental check for your pet and discuss the best options for your pet.