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 plaque is formed. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line 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 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.

What if my pet has dental disease?

Firstly, we recommend you have your pet's teeth examined by one of our Veterinarians on a regular basis.  This is typically done at your pets annual health check, however if you have any concerns, including bad breath, plaque build up or bleeding gums, please book in to see us..

If necessary, we may recommend a follow up appointment for a professional dental clean. Each of our three clinics provide state-of-the-art dental x-ray imaging facilities and dental scaling machines. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all their teeth without distressing them. Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is performed. 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 may be necessary.

In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure. Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day with appropriate pain relief to ensure a stress free recovery.

Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and the nature of this will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease. This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding special dental chews or a special dental diet. Our staff will discuss with you at the time of discharge.

In instances of extractions or surgery, we will likely request you bring your pet back in for a re-check 7-10 days after their proceedure.

How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?

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

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.

Teeth Friendly Chews and Toys

Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning biscuits, all of which may help keep the teeth clean.  The best time to use these is when your dog already has clean teeth, to help reduce accumalation of bacteria and plaque.

Dental Diets

We will often recommend that you feed your pet a special dental diet. This can help reduce the accumulation of tartar and reduce the frequency of more intensive dental proceedures. Please speak to one of our trained animal nutrition advisors to check that a dental diet is right for your pet.

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.