Dental Disease in Pets

Dental disease affects 80% of pets over the age of 3 years. Dental problems are not just caused by one thing, but a number of factors working together including:

  • Genetics – some breeds of dog are more commonly and severely effected
  • Infections – cats especially can get viral infections that cause or contribute to gum disease
  • Trauma – animals may have accidents, breaking teeth, or may chew stones
  • Diet – some foods cause less natural abrasion allowing tartar to build up. However, remember wild dogs and stray cats get bad teeth too! In rabbits and other small animals, not enough fibre (grass and hay) can cause teeth to overgrow.

What signs to look out for

Animals can be very stoic when it comes to tooth problems – often because they have no good way of letting us know. Teeth are normally very bad before your pet stops eating – is it fair to wait that long? Signs to look out for include:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolouration
  • Not wanting to eat certain foods (often hard food)
  • Loose teeth or lost teeth
  • Red gums

If you are worried about your pet’s teeth, please get them checked over as soon as possible.

Why do tooth problems matter?

In the mouth, bad teeth can result in severe pain and infections and even jaw fractures! Remember dental disease management is not just about sweet smelling breath, but can have life threatening consequences. Advanced tooth disease can lead to heart, liver, kidney and respiratory problems and can complicate the management of diseases such as diabetes.

At NuVet, we do not think it is fair to wait until your pet is in so much pain they stop eating, or bacteria from their mouth spreads through their body. We need to work together with our patients and their owners to prevent problems before they get that bad!

What can we do?

If your pet has early signs of mouth disease, your vet may recommend a scale and polish and mouth x-rays. If the gum, bone or tooth is too badly damaged, teeth may need to be removed. Not all vets have dental radiography, but we do, and it is the only way to know what is going on beneath the gumline. Some pets may require special treatment to preserve as many teeth as possible e.g. Root canal surgery.


Prevention is better than cure. Many of the tooth problems we see in our patients could have been prevented with regular dental care – that means tooth brushing! This is easiest when you start with a puppy, but old dogs CAN learn new tricks! All you need is pet toothpaste, a brush and lots of patience. The Dogs Trust has a good video of tooth brushing. It’s not just for dogs: cat tooth brushing.

Book a free appointment with one of our nurses and they will be happy to show you in more detail.