Dental care for your pet

Just like humans, our pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. Alarmingly, it is estimated that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of three.

When there is a build-up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth form plaque. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and, if not removed, will calcify into tartar (also known as calculus). Plaque appears as a yellow-brown material on the teeth. Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur. These include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth.

This same bacterial infection is also a source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidney, liver, and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill. Ultimately, dental disease results in many pets unnecessarily suffering tooth loss, gum infection and pain. It also has the potential to shorten your pet’s lifespan.

For more information see our page regarding dentistry.

What if my pet has dental disease?

Firstly, you should have your pet's teeth examined by one of our veterinarians regularly and, if necessary, follow up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination and clean their teeth without distressing them. Once anaesthetised, it is then safe to carry out a complete dental assessment. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.

Our veterinarians will then remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gumline using specialised instruments, including an ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here. However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary.

Cases involving surgery on their gums to close over holes left behind by extracting teeth will require dis-solvable stitches. Upon completing the dental work and before the anaesthetic gas is turned off and your pet is allowed to wake up, an antibiotic and anti-inflammatory injection may be given and can generally go home on the same day.

Following a professional dental clean, a plan then is developed to minimise the build-up of tartar. The nature of this will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease. It can involve regular tooth brushing, feeding special dental chews or even a special diet. Therefore, it is recommended that all pets be examined 6 months after dental cleaning to determine the effectiveness of your dental care routine.

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

Long-term control and prevention of dental disease require regular dental home care. The best way to begin this is to acclimatise your pet from a young age. Dental home care may include:

Water Additives

Assisting to keep your pet’s teeth clean after a dental procedure, we suggest the use of Oxyfresh, an additive for their drinking water. Oxyfresh is odourless, colourless and flavourless and therefore readily accepted by most pets, especially cats, dogs, rabbits & rodents. The patented Oxygene molecule works by neutralising the bacteria that causes bad breath & plaque development.

Food Additives

Another option to reduce dental disease recurring following a dental procedure is Plaque Off. Plaque off works after absorption into the bloodstream from the stomach, secreting a compound into saliva that helps reduce the stickiness of plaque to the tooth enamel. It can even help break the bond of existing plaque on the enamel of your pets’ teeth.

Dental Chews

Look for chews that have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal — these have been tested and shown to have positive health on your pet's oral health.

Dental Diets

A properly formulated, complete and balanced diet encourages your dog to chew the kibble (large size) to achieve an abrasive effect, reducing plaque build-up on the surface of their teeth, similar to brushing.  They also contain compounds to help reduce plaque development.

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