Disease involving the teeth and gums is a common health problem for
many dogs and cats.
The Australian Veterinary Association1 reports that 4 out of every
5 dogs and cats over the age of 3 have some degree of dental disease.
It can involve infected gums, bad breath (halitosis), mouth pain,
reduced appetite and drooling. If left untreated, gum infection can
result in loss of teeth and lead to more serious illnesses. So, it's
important that we take some simple steps to look after our pets' teeth
and overall health.
Adult dogs generally have a total of 42 teeth. Puppies begin to cut their
teeth about 14 days after birth. This first set of teeth is known as
deciduous teeth or milk teeth. Deciduous teeth are lost and replaced by
adult teeth between four and six months of age. The teeth of dogs differ
from our own in three major ways:
The dog's front teeth (incisors) are very small.
The canine teeth are very large, and have very long roots for strength
to allow dogs to grasp and tear meat.
Dogs can only move their jaws vertically (up and down), so their molar
teeth are not designed to grind up their food. They're sharp, not flat
like ours, and use a shearing action to chop food up into chunks for
Plaque & tartar formation
Plaque forms naturally and continuously as a colourless film of bacteria
and food debris which sticks to the surface of the teeth, particularly near
the gums. If left on the teeth, minerals seep into soft plaque and form
tartar, a hard brown/yellow material which is stuck firmly to the tooth
surface. This can often be seen on some teeth in many dogs. The build up of
tartar on your dog's teeth acts as a wedge, irritating the gum, allowing
bacteria in the plaque to cause infection and inflammation of the gums
(gingivitis) and other tissues surrounding the teeth (periodontitis). The
bone surrounding the teeth begins to erode and eventually teeth can become
loose and fall out.
Complete and balanced food for strong, healthy teeth
It is important that your dog or cat is fed a complete and balanced diet,
right from weaning to ensure they get all the nutrients, especially calcium
and phosphorus, required for the development of strong healthy teeth.
Prepared pet foods offer a great range of foods for kittens, pups and adult
pets; check the label to choose one that is complete and balanced.
Veterinary dental check ups
We are taught from an early age of the importance of regular check-ups with
the dentist. It is just as important for dogs to have regular veterinary
dental care. If a vet advises that your cat or dog needs their teeth
cleaned,then this is usually done under general anaesthetic.
A healthy mouth
In the wild, animals hunted for their food and ate their prey whole,
naturally cleaning their teeth in the process. But for domesticated dogs
and cats, tooth cleaning is not as straight forward.
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA)1 advise that bones can cause some serious
problems for pets, including potentially broken teeth, constipation and
food poisoning and they advise that there are other products available
to assist. Old or cooked bones in particular should not be
offered to pets as they are too hard for most dogs to chew properly,
they splinter easily and can damage the dog's mouth and get lodged in
their intestinal tract.
Prepared pet foods & functional treats
There is now a range of prepared dry pet foods, chews and treats available
for cats and dogs that have been designed to assist in helping keep pet's
mouths healthy. These foods can be included as a regular part of your pets'
feeding and care to assist in promoting healthy teeth and gums and fresh
breath. The PFIAA recommends that you speak to your vet if you have any
concerns or questions regarding dental health in your pet.
Oral care for dogs - at a glance
Feed good quality, complete and balanced pet foods to ensure your pet
receives all the nutrition needed for strong teeth and healthy gums.
Arrange regular dental check-ups at your vet and have teeth cleaned if
necessary. Ask their advice about a dental health program for your pet.
Regular tooth brushing can be effective, but can be quite a bit of
Consider including regular feeding of dental treats or chews, as part
of your dog or cat's diet.
Seek advice from your veterinarian for further information about dental
care for your pet.
This article is for general information only:
This information is provided by the PFIAA as general information only. For
advice and information concerning feeding your individual pet, we recommend
that you seek the advice of your veterinarian.