Cat & Dog Dental Care
Your pet's dental health is very important - without care and attention, oral disease and other associated problems can occur. Not only is an unhealthy mouth painful, but it can also cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where it can damage internal organs and make your beloved pet very poorly.
Sandhole Vets provide pet dental care for dogs, cats, and rabbits, but as a pet owner, you can also look out for the tell-tale signs of pet dental problems and combat a lot of issues at home. Read through our pet dental care information and advice, and if you still require a pet dental appointment, contact us to book an appointment.
Different elements can contribute to dental disease:
- Plaque - caused by a build-up of bacteria on the surfaces of the teeth, most commonly the premolars and molars
- Tartar (calculus)- if plaque is not removed, after a few days, it combines with minerals in the saliva to form this hardened substance, which in turn can cause gingivitis (reddening of the gums)
- Periodontal disease - over time, tartar builds up under the gum line and separates the bony structures of the jaw from the teeth. Abscesses can form, which lead to increased bacteria levels that can enter the bloodstream. Once at this stage, the condition is irreversible, and dental treatment is required
- Trauma - many objects can damage teeth, such as stones or sticks. Only provide toys that are safe for your pet to chew or play games with.
By examining your pet's mouth regularly, you will be able to pick up the early warning signs, which could prevent pain and avoid the need for tooth extractions.
Often the most common reason pet dental advice is sought is due to halitosis (bad breath), but other indicators of poor pet dental health include:
- red or bleeding gums
- dropping food
- heavy tartar deposits
- receded gums
- difficulty eating
- pawing at the face.
The most effective routine for your pet is twice daily teeth brushing, just like our own routine!
Ideally, brush your pet's teeth every day with pet friendly toothpaste and a pet toothbrush. Begin introducing your pet to the toothpaste by placing a small amount on your finger and letting him/her lick it off. Once your pet readily accepts the toothpaste, you can place your finger with some toothpaste on into his/ her mouth and gently rub the teeth and gums. Repeat this until your pet is happy to have their teeth lightly brushed.
When your pet becomes comfortable with light brushing, they can be introduced to the toothbrush. Wet the toothbrush to soften the bristles slightly and apply a small amount of toothpaste. Keeping the mouth closed is best, so lift the lip and start at the back of the mouth inside the cheek using a circular motion. The teeth at the front of the mouth are best brushed with an up and downward motion.
A variety of dental diets are available, such as Hills T/D and Royal Canin Dental. The structure of the food is designed so that when your pet starts to eat, the kibble remains intact until the tooth has penetrated through the biscuit, thus cleaning the teeth.
Solutions are available to add to your pet's daily drinking water. They inhibit plaque build-up and help keep your pet's breath fresh. Oral rinses are also available with similar properties.
Chews and treats
Many dental chews and treats can be found from some sources (vets/pet shops/supermarkets). The shape and texture of the chews /treats are designed for maximum tooth contact, preventing plaque and tartar formation; some even are flavoured to give a minty fresh smell. It is important to remember that dental chews/treats contain calories, which should be factored into your pet's overall intake.
Rabbit Dental Care
Unlike dogs and cats, a rabbit's teeth cannot be brushed; therefore, other measures are required to prevent dental disease. A rabbit's teeth are continuously growing, so appropriate feeding regimes for your rabbit is essential. Rabbits required 80-85% of their diet to be hay or grass alone!
Access to grass
Grass contains phytoliths, small sandpaper-like crystals that effectively clean and wears your rabbit's teeth.
Muesli feeds are not recommended as they contain high sugar levels, which is not good for the teeth (think sweets and children!) At Sandhole, we recommend Excel Rabbit or Supreme, both high-quality pellet diets.
Signs to watch out for
A few tell-tale signs can often indicate problems associated with dental disease:
- Monitor the size of your rabbit's faecal droppings. Small droppings can be related to dental disease due to the rabbit wanting to graze less and only eat pelleted food, thus decreasing the amount of food and waste produced
- Weight loss is also a key indicator of dental disease. We recommend weighing your rabbit once a week, so you spot any weight loss early
- If your rabbit stops eating, even for half a day, please call the Sandhole team, who will advise you accordingly.
By regularly checking your rabbit and ensuring a good quality balanced diet, the risk of dental problems can be minimised.
Click on the links below to find out more.
Pet Dental Care FAQs
What is dental disease?
Dental disease can vary from mild to severe. In the early stages of dental disease plaque and tartar begin to build on the surface of the tooth. As plaque and tartar continue to build the gum around the tooth can become inflames (gingivitis). Left untreated, the inflamed gum will begin to recede, exposing the root of the tooth. Ultimately the tooth may be lost. Dental disease can occur following trauma where a tooth is fractures
Is my pet in pain if they have dental disease?
Yes. Your pet’s teeth are made up in the same way as our teeth with the same nerves and sensations. They experience dental pain in the same way as we do. However, pets are very good at hiding this pain and it can often be difficult to identify they are in pain.
Who will check if my pet has dental disease?
Our nurses can assess your pet’s teeth for free during a dental clinic and are fully trained in advising you on techniques to help care for them. In addition, our vets will check your pet’s teeth at each of their examinations for vaccinations or other problems.
What happens during my pet’s dental care?
At the start of your pet’s treatment, we will chart your pet’s mouth. This is a process where we individually assess each tooth and the gums and record any abnormalities. Charting your pet’s teeth ensures no problems are missed and acts as a record if further investigation treatment is required. You will also receive a copy of this chart for your own records. The vet doing your pet’s dental care will then call you to discuss the findings in your pet’s mouth and to recommend what dental treatment is required. You will also be given costs of all treatments. As will all operations your pet will be carefully monitored throughout their anaesthetic.
What is scale and polish procedure?
As with people, a scale and polish involve an ultrasonic scaler held gently against the teeth. The scaler will gently vibrate against the teeth to remove tartar. A high-speed polisher is then used to ensure your pet’s teeth are left smooth and clean. (All patients who require other dental treatment will also have their teeth scaled and polished).
When are dental x-rays taken?
If we are concerned about a tooth showing early signs of decay, we may take an x-ray of the tooth as your own dentist would do. The x-ray allows us to examine the portion of the tooth under the gum (the root) to identify if it’s healthy or not. This information will be used to determine the best treatment for that tooth.
What do dental extractions involve?
In short, dental extractions mean removing teeth. This is only done when a tooth is diseased and, if left in the mouth, will cause further problems. At Crofts Vets Surgery we use surgical extractions to carefully remove teeth which are diseased. This means we use surgical techniques to safely remove the tooth, minimising trauma to the gums and other structures in the mouth. We will then suture the gum. For your pet this means minimal trauma in their mouth and quicker healing time.
What if my pet requires more advanced dental treatment?
On occasion your pet may require more advanced dental techniques such as root canal treatment. These advanced procedures can help to prevent teeth which are showing early signs of disease and can help prevent extractions. If this is required, we can discuss referral options for your pet