Focus on… Dental care

Sadly all too common in cats and dogs, dental disease can cause pain and discomfort for your pet long before you realise there is a problem. Dogs and cats are very good at hiding the fact that they feel under the weather and so you may not realise there is a problem until the visible symptoms become relatively advanced. Just as with our own dental health, prevention is always better than cure, and although best begun early in life, it is never too late to implement a good dental hygiene routine with your pets.


Plaque naturally forms on your pet’s teeth, and if it is not regularly removed the surrounding gums will become red and swollen and teeth become loose. Infection, inflammation and soreness of the gums follow, along with possible loss of teeth if the problem is advanced. Many people do not realise that bacteria from the infected mouth can also spread to other areas of the body and cause general health problems, particularly in older pets or those with compromised immune systems.

Visible signs of dental disease may include any or all of the following, so please do consult your vet for further advice if you notice:

  •  Bad breath
  • Increased salivation or constant licking
  • Reluctance to play with chew toys or carry objects in the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Dropping food or chewing only on one side
  •  Avoidance of hard foods, such as biscuits
  •  Jaw ‘chattering’, especially in cats
  • Facial swelling
  •  General sluggishness
  • Sudden aggression

Feed a diet that features a high proportion of dry food can help with prevention – chewing the dry kibbles helps to ‘clean’ your pet’s teeth. Make sure there is plenty of water available at all times and also dry food may not be recommended for all animals; consult your vet if you are unsure. Special dental chews are now widely available for both dogs and cats, but do remember to reduce your pet’s daily calorie intake accordingly when offering these, to avoid weight gain.

You won’t be surprised to read that tooth brushing is the best way of keeping your pet’s teeth clean (although the thought of it might fill you with panic!). Many cats and dogs will tolerate tooth brushing, especially if it is part of their routine from an early age. Use specially formulated pet toothpaste and brush the teeth daily either with a baby finger brush or a child’s toothbrush. Regular dental check-ups with your vet are essential, and your pet’s mouth will also be examined during all routine examinations or health checks so that any potential issues can be spotted and addressed early on.

If you have a young dog at home, it’s a good idea to include a gentle oral examination in your puppy’s training (along with regularly looking in the ears and holding the paws) so that your dog becomes used to this type of handling and will not become stressed when a vet does the same in the future.

There’s lots more advice about caring for your pet’s teeth on the RSPCA website.

Until next time, best wishes from Shailen and The Ralph Site team.
The Ralph Site, non-profit pet loss support

Please note: The Ralph Site is not affiliated with the third-party organisations in any of the links shared here, and the views, ideas and suggestions expressed in this and other blogs are simply shared with the intention of helping you, our friends, take care of the special animals in your lives.

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