Back To Dog
Stages of dental disease

Stages of dental disease

When it comes to dental health, prevention is always the best treatment. Identifying where there is a dental health condition in your pet however, often it is near impossible with many pets showing no obvious symptoms at all. While it may be hard to identify, four out of five of our dog and cat patients are affected by symptoms of dental disease by the age of three.

Does your pet show any of the below conditions;

  • Do they suffer from bad breath?
  • Do they have a loss of appetite or difficulty eating?
  • Are they pawing at their mouth?
  • Are they drooling excessively?

If you answer yes to the above questions, your pet may be in need of a dental health check. If they aren’t showing any of the above symptoms, ask your local Animates Vetcare team to check their teeth on their next routine check-up.

To keep your pet’s teeth always looking healthy, check out some of the below tips and tricks. Remember, pet’s need their teeth cleaned and maintained just like humans.

Tips to Prevent Dental Disease

  • Dental treats come in a range of textures and flavours that help fight tartar and plague build up and freshens breath
  • Certain dental chew toys have various shapes and grooves that make it easy to get into your pets mouth and help assist in oral health
  • Brushing teeth doesn't just sit with us humans and really should be just as frequent in our fur-friends. Make sure pet specific tooth paste is used as human tooth paste is harmful for pets.
  • Regularly check your pet’s gums; they should look pink and healthy rather than red and swollen. Regularly massage your pet’s gums to help keep them healthy and avoid tooth decay.
  • Dry food, especially dental diets is a great way to combat tartar with the larger sized kibble. They will need to chew harder breaking away tartar build up on teeth.
  • Diets which include bones and chunks of meat; helps to remove tartar build up.
  • Ensure they eats slowly as this will allow the kibble to make contact with the teeth to break down tartar
  • Small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs are at risk of their teeth over growing. Including coarse foods such as grass, hay, herbs and carrots will encourage chewing and naturally grind their teeth preventing overgrowth.
  • Check their teeth regularly, feeling for lumps under the neck and on sides of the jaw to check for abscesses.
  • Regular check-ups (we recommend every six months), with your veterinarian are also important to help identify if your pet's teeth may need a little more attention with a scale and polish.

Small pets, cats and dogs use their teeth and jaws to grind and swallow food, teeth which are in poor condition can cause pain and discomfort as well as causing problems for their organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys.

Tips & Tricks for Teeth Brushing
When it comes to dental health, prevention is always advised before treatment and it is best to start early. Your pet’s teeth will be ready to begin cleaning from eight weeks old which is a great age for familiarising them with a daily dental routine. We have compiled a handy guide to brushing your pet’s teeth to get you started.

  • Start slowly, giving plenty of affection and praise. Create routine by brushing at the same time; if they are food motivated brush their teeth just before dinner & use dinner as the reward.
  • Get your pet used to the sensation of touch on their lips, teeth and gums using your finger. Try putting a few drops of chicken/beef stock or tuna juice (cats) on your finger; they will begin to look forward to the ‘reward’ associated with this touch. Note; small pets may feel more relaxed sitting on your knee.
  • Repeat this touch with a piece of flavoured (stock or tuna) cloth wrapped or a cotton wool bud. Start along their gum lines before lightly massaging their teeth and gums.
  • Introduce the toothbrush; dip the toothbrush in the same flavour  before holding it at a 45 degree angle to the tooth gently brushing back and forth in a circular motion. Begin slowly with one or two strokes at the front of their mouth before continuing to their back teeth and if possible their tongue.
  • Now you can introduce the toothpaste; rub a small amount of toothpaste onto their rubber chew toys and encourage them to play and chew. Combine for the ultimate clean; it is now time to use both the toothbrush and paste together. Remember to start slowly and build up to at least 30 – 60 seconds on each side, sticking to a daily routine as much as possible. Note; as losing their baby teeth can be painful it is recommended that you stop teeth brushing until their permanent teeth come in.
  • Treat your pet; after you have finished brushing their teeth create a positive association by giving your pet a small treat and of course a big cuddle

Bad breath difficulty eating or loss of appetite, bad breath, discolouration, discomfort, swelling under eyes, pawing and mouth and redness or inflammation of the gums

Dental Hygiene Tools

  1. Pet specific tooth brush
  2. Pet specific toothpaste; human toothpaste is harmful to pets if swallowed
  3. Oral rinses and gels. Note; These must be pet specific, ask us for guidance
  4. Nutritionally complete superior dry food that that is designed to help to clean their teeth
  5. Rubber chew toys
  6. Dental treats that can help reduce tartar build up

If you notice any of these, book in an appointment to discuss with your local Animates Vetcare team.

Bad Breath
While diet will affect your pet’s breath it should never have a strong foul odour. This may be a sign of infection, decay or even rotting food stuck between their teeth. If you’re pet has overtly smelly breath book an appointment with your local Animates Vetcare for a dental check-up.

Dental disease teeth Plaque food particles, saliva and bacteria Tartar Plaque has been calcified and turned into tartar

What causes dental disease?

Dental disease is inflammation of the teeth and gums caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar. Plaque is made up of food particles, saliva and bacteria, which sticks to the surface of the tooth and if not removed will calcify into tartar and progress from there. This takes place above and below the gum line and over time can lead to the destruction of the supporting tissue of the teeth including bone, resulting in bad breath, oral pain and loss of teeth.

Dental disease is very common and is the leading cause of early tooth loss in cats and dogs. Left untreated, dental disease advances and can contribute to heart, liver and kidney problems.

The good news is, in most cases, this disease is preventable with regular dental examinations and the appropriate ongoing dental care by you and your veterinary care team at Animates Vetcare.

Grades of dental disease

Dental disease is insidious and progressive. As our pet’s age and the disease progresses it becomes harder and more costly to treat.

Grade 1
The gum (or gingiva) at the top of the teeth is inflamed and swollen. There is a mild plaque and calculus that covers the teeth. A dental scale and polish can reverse this condition.

Grade 2
The entire attached gum is inflamed and swollen, plaque and calculus has extended to base of the teeth. The pet’s mouth is painful and has a bad odour. Professional treatment and home dental care can prevent this from becoming irreversible.

Grade 3
Plaque and calculus are moving deeper into the gum which is ulcerated, red, and in many cases bleeding. The pet’s mouth is sensitive which c an affect their eating behaviour. Dental disease has progressed and without intervention may be irreversible.

Grade 4
Chronic bacterial infection is destroying the gum, teeth and bone which is very painful for the pet. In some cases the teeth may be loose. Bacteria may be spreading through the bloodstream which can cause damage to the heart, liver and kidney. Treatment may require extraction of severely affected teeth.

Grade two and Grade three dental disease imagery

How can I help my pet have a healthy mouth?

Regular health checks will help to identify any development of dental disease and will allow your veterinarian to discuss the best management plan for your pet. For adult cats and dogs with existing dental disease, a dental treatment with a scale and polish under general anaesthetic is often necessary to get their mouth back into top condition. This will allow us to start preventative measures with a clean mouth and prevent, or slow down, dental disease developing again in the future.

There are things you can do at home such as introducing vet diets, in particular dental diets that can significantly reduce the development of tartar. Some chewy treats are also specifically designed to reduce tartar, promote healthy gums and freshen breath.

If your pet is calm and relaxed, daily brushing of their teeth with a specially designed pet toothbrush and toothpaste is also very beneficial.

For more information about how to keep your pet’s teeth healthy talk to your local Animates Vetcare team.