Dental health is a major health issue in pets, and one that some owners don’t realise until their pet has some pretty smelly breath. Why is it an issue? Firstly, examining a pet’s mouth is not always easy, especially if a pet has very long lips, is head shy or full of slobber – no-one really likes being covered in stripes of slimy gob. Secondly, many owners don’t expect that their pets would have dental problems or imagine that dental disease even exists in pets. The fact is that up to 85% of animals 3 years and older show signs of dental disease.

So here’s why it’s a good idea to get your pet’s teeth checked:

  1. Poor dental health leads to loss of teeth, periodontal disease and chronic pain. How does this happen? Food builds up on the teeth which provides a safe haven for bacteria to grow creating films of plaque and hard tartar (also known as calculus). As the tartar builds up it starts to grow down the side of the tooth under the gum, this causes inflammation, sore, red and bleeding gums. Over time this gap between the tooth and gum gets bigger, the little ligament (periodontal ligament) that holds the tooth in the jaw bone starts to break down and the bone begins to recede. At this stage the pet has periodontal disease, possibly has some teeth falling out, and definitely has lots of discomfort, smelly breath and a raging infection in its mouth.
  2. Dental disease can shorten your pet’s lifespan by contributing to heart disease, liver disease and kidney disease. How does this happen? The bacteria from the infection in the mouth can get into the blood stream because of all the bleeding gums, and travel to the heart valves, liver and kidneys causing infections there. Long term inflammation associated with dental disease also causes inflammatory proteins to be released which slowly build up in various organs, most commonly the kidneys and liver. This condition is known as Amyloidosis. Essentially what happens is that these proteins clog up the organs preventing them from functioning properly and causing general organ failure. This condition can not be undone – once it’s there, it’s there.

What are the signs that my indicate your pet has a dental problem?

  • Smelly breath
  • Drooling excessively
  • Not wanting to eat hard foods
  • Not wanting to chew or only chewing on one side
  • Build up of tartar
  • Red / swollen / bleeding gums
  • Missing / broken teeth
  • Rubbing or pawing at the mouth
  • Tries to eat and suddenly stops
  • Decreased appetite


Now for the good news: Most dental disease can be prevented! 


two beagle dog on a green grass


Here are 6 easy steps to follow to help your pet keep his pearly whites:

  • Check your pet’s mouth regularly: Have a quick look once a week for any changes in appearance in your pet’s teeth or gums. If your pet is a little head shy, train him by keeping sessions short, giving him lots of pats, cuddles and treats to get him used to having his face and mouth touched.
  • Vet Checks: Your pet’s annual or biannual (if a senior pet) checks are important for getting your pet’s general and dental health checked. Don’t miss them!
  • Feed a healthy diet: Table scraps do not offer your pet a balanced diet, definitely have too much salt and are bad for teeth – don’t do it! Commercial pet foods that meets the Australian Standard: Manufacturing and Marketing Pet Food AS 5812:2011 will meet their overall health requirements. Generally for dental health, dry food tends to stick to their teeth less than tinned, thus reducing the chance of plaque and tartar build up. Feeding a specially formulated dental diet that has a special kibble shape will help even more. These kibble are a bit larger than regular kibble and break in a particular way that helps to brush the tooth clean. Keep in mind these foods are generally formulated for adult dogs, so puppies should remain on puppy specific food until they’re a year old.
  • Chewing fun: Chewing is a great way to help your pet keep its pearly whites pearly white. Offering raw meaty bones (no sharp chips or pieces) for large dogs, raw chicken wings or drumsticks for smaller pets, allows your pet to ‘floss’ by the chewy sinews pulling between their teeth. Veterinary dentists generally recommend offering brisket bone as it’s not hard enough to cause tooth fractures, but care must be taken that the dog does not try chewing off chunks that may be swallowed and get stuck in the gut. NEVER feed cooked bones; remove the bone once the meat and gristle have been chewed off, if the bone is small enough to swallow or if your pet is trying to chew big chunks off to swallow. If you have small children, take care when offering raw chicken as it carries a higher risk of Salmonella infections. Dogs can also be given raw veggies to chew such as carrots – just make sure that the diameter of the carrot is not too large for the size of the dog, we don’t want a large chunk getting stuck in a small gut. Chew toys are also great for keeping your pet busy. Make sure that they’re made of durable rubber, are not brittle and can’t be broken into pieces that can be swallowed. And don’t let your pet chew rocks, hard ropes, sticks or tennis balls! These will cause excessive wear of their teeth.
  • Teeth brushing: Brushing your pet’s teeth is an excellent way to keep their mouths in shape. You can either use a special finger brush (looks a lot like a thimble), a pet toothbrush or a child size toothbrush (soft bristles only). You can use the brush on its own or with special pet tooth paste – there are even a few flavours out there to choose from: biscuit, beef, chicken or cheese! You only need to brush the outside of their teeth since their tongues manage to do a pretty good job of keeping the tops and inside clean. The best results are achieved by brushing their teeth every day, however even every second day has shown excellent results in maintaining oral health.


  • Other Treatment Aids for dogs and cats: Aquadent is an additive that can be added to your pet’s drinking water. It contains xylitol which is proven to prevent bacterial growth and when used daily, reduces plaque and bad breath. Hexarinse is a mouthwash for pets that prevents plaque, reduces gum inflammation and helps treat periodontal disease.

What do you need to do next?

  1. Check your pet’s mouth
  2. If you see ‘pearly whites’, keep up the good work and implement the steps listed above!
  3. If you see ‘manky mouth’, give us a call on 0481 527 678 to make an appointment and we’ll help your furry pal get back on track.