You want me to brush my pet’s what?

by Dr Penny Dobson BVSc MACVSc (Canine) Hill’s Helpline Manager

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Tips to help owners understand the need for their pets’ dental care

Most of us can probably remember a time in the not so distant past where pet dental care was never or rarely mentioned. Why the push today to take care of our pets’ teeth? We’ve learned in recent years an estimated 60-72% of pets over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease, and that dental care has a significant effect on our pets’ overall health and longevity. ¹

Dental disease and infection, and its impact, increases over time if left untreated. As veterinary staff, we are all too aware of how difficult it can be to help owners understand the importance of pet dental health care. To our trained eyes, it is obvious that most pets do not have healthy mouths. It can be frustrating when owners can’t see this, and won’t bring their pets in for dental treatment.

Signs of dental disease in pets include:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling (especially in cats)
  • Loose or discoloured teeth
  • Red, inflamed, or swollen gums
  • Pain when eating
  • Loss of interest in chew toys

Dr Christine Hawke², Small Animal Dental Veterinarian, Sydney Pet Dentistry, reminds us that there is one crucial point owners really need to know:

“Pets with severe dental disease will continue to eat DESPITE their pain.”

This is understandable, as a healthy appetite is something we associate with good health. The truth is, animals are adept at hiding signs of oral pain and may even continue to eat. Therefore, educate owners to look for other signs associated with oral disease, as listed above.

In short, we need to help owners realise the ‘he’s still eating’ response is not always an indication of oral health. Educating owners on this point should reduce their reluctance to have their pets’ dental disease treated.

Five tips from Christine to help owners understand the need for their pets’ dental care :

  1. Bad breath is NOT normal
  2. Use words they understand to describe what is going on, such as pus, infection, jaw bone destruction.
  3. Use human analogies such as tooth ache, broken tooth, ulcers. Things the owners know are painful
  4. Use pictures: take a quick snap their pet’s mouth in the exam room and text/email it to them.
  5. Remind them that animals will eat until they can’t.


7 things you need to know about AAHA’s Dental Care Guidelines

  1. Dental disease begins early in life
  2. Early detection is key
  3. “X-ray vision” is essential for diagnosing dental disease
  4. Anaesthesia makes dental evaluation and treatment safer and less stressful
  5. Removing plaque from teeth beneath the gums is vital
  6. Don’t forget to brush!
  7. Consider using other dental products like  Hill’s™ Prescription Diet™ t/d™ Dental Care if brushing isn’t an option

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  • Natural mechanical daily tooth brush
  • VOHC seal for both plaque and tartar  
  • Complete and balanced