Pet Dental Care for Dogs, Cats & Rabbits
Eastcott Vets is a centre of excellence for pet dental care and oral treatments in the UK.
We firmly believe that prevention is better than cure, which is why we offer free dental clinics to check your pet’s dental health and help you to make any adjustments needed to their oral care before problems arise.
Cat and Dog Dental Care – everything you need to know
Unlike humans, cats and dogs don't always show signs of dental concerns or diseases. Even when in pain, cats and dogs can still continue to eat as usual, meaning pet owners may miss the tell-tale signs.
At Eastcott Vets, we advise that your cat and dog’s dental hygiene is just as important as any other routine and preventative treatment. Like humans, cats and dogs can develop a build-up of tartar, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
Brushing your pet’s teeth once or twice a day is the best option for good oral hygiene. We also have products such as liquids to add to their water to help reduce plaque build-up and reduce bad breath (halitosis), as well as veterinary dental diets. Here at Eastcott Vets our team would be happy to assist you with answering any questions you may have, as well as advising you on the recommended products or diets for your cat or dog.
Symptoms of dental disease in cats and dogs
Cats and dogs can be very good at hiding signs of oral pain and dental disease. Some cats and dogs with severe dental disease, including root exposure, severe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and tooth root infections, will continue to eat, showing only subtle signs that something is wrong. Catching dental disease early can reduce the number of extractions required from not noticing earlier signs of dental disease.
Build-up of plaque and tarter will not be removed by teeth brushing alone if this is already present, so we recommend a scale and polish to remove this, followed by tooth brushing to prevent the build-up occurring again. A general anaesthesia is required for all dental procedures, however, having a routine scale and polish carried out to prevent dental disease from progressing is a hugely reduced anaesthetic time compared to multiple extractions being carried out.
What are the signs of cat and dog dental disease?
- bad breath (halitosis)
- visible tartar build-up on teeth
- red or inflamed gums (gingivitis)
- discoloured teeth
- loose teeth
- bleeding from the mouth
- slowness or reluctance to eat
- chewing on one side of the mouth
- dropping food from the mouth when eating
- swelling around the mouth (from potential tooth root abscesses).
How can I improve my cat or dog's dental care?
The best way to maintain healthy teeth is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. This is easiest to start when they are younger but can be introduced at any age. The Eastcott Vets team would be happy to help with advice on introducing this to your cat or dog.
It can also be beneficial to have a scale and polish performed regularly to clean the teeth thoroughly. This is similar to the treatment humans would receive from a dental hygienist. These are done under a short general anaesthetic as pets won’t sit in one position for a prolonged period and we must ensure their safety and that of the team when in the vicinity of sharp teeth!
Why does cat and dog dental disease occur?
Food and saliva that is left behind on the teeth will form plaque on the tooth. Plaque is soft and can be removed by brushing or using alternative dental products. If not removed, the plaque will harden forming tartar, which is difficult to remove without a dental treatment intervention. If tartar is not removed (normally via the scale and polish procedure) then bacteria will spread below the gum-line, causing red sore gums. This is called gingivitis and periodontitis, which in turn can lead to lose teeth, infection of the tooth root and jawbone infection.
Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs)
Cats also get another form of dental disease known as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs). It has an unknown cause, but 75% of cats are thought to be affected. It is particularly common in cats over five years but can occur at any age.
In these lesions, part of the tooth is eaten away by the tooth itself, forming a small hole in the enamel close to the gum line. These lesions are very painful for cats and can lead to tooth fractures as they weaken the teeth. They require extraction to resolve.
Rabbit Dental Care – everything you need to know
Rabbit's teeth continue to grow throughout their lives, which allows them to grind down course feed substances such as grass and plants in the wild. Many domestic rabbits are fed a mixture of hay and commercially available diets. Commercially available diets are lower in fibre and higher in protein, fat and energy. This means that rabbits quickly achieve their nutritional requirements, unlike in the wild when they would need to graze all day and forage to meet the same energy intake from food. This can not only lead to obesity and boredom, but it can also lead to dental disease due to lack of wear of the teeth. Less time grinding and a lower intake of indigestible fibre can lead to the formation of molar spurs, which if severe, and allowed to progress, can cause tongue and cheek lacerations.
This can also cause secondary issues as indigestible fibre and chewing also promotes gastrointestinal motility, so diets low in fibre and higher in carbohydrates (such as muesli or pelleted diets) can cause the gut motility to slow.
Rabbits are hindgut fermenters, meaning that they rely on bacteria within their hindgut to break down and absorb food. Changing the pH and microflora can therefore lead to diarrhoea, gut stasis and, unfortunately, in some cases, death. For this reason, diet is an important factor in keeping your rabbit healthy and happy.
What signs may I notice at home that may indicate my rabbit has dental disease?
- reduced appetite, or not eating at all
- reduced number of faecal pellets produced
- reduced or inability to ingest caecotrophs – leading to a 'messy bum.'
- runny eyes
- hypersalivation and drooling
- facial swelling due to secondary dental abscess.
If you detect any of the above signs, please contact Eastcott Vets' team to make an appointment for a vet to examine your rabbit as soon as possible.
The vet has detected rabbit dental disease; what does this mean?
If the front teeth (incisors) are too long, these can be shortened, this is usually performed on a conscious rabbit, but this depends on temperament.
If there is malalignment of the incisors (meaning that they don't contact each other when closed), then shortening the teeth may provide a temporary fix, but the extraction of all incisors may be more appropriate to prevent the need for regular burring – this is something your vet would advise you on.
If your vet suspects there is spurring (sharp edges) of the back-cheek teeth (molars), a general anaesthetic will be required to facilitate a thorough examination and treatment.
What can I do to help prevent rabbit dental disease?
Feed a well-balanced diet high in fibre; a rabbit's diet should be mainly made up of hay (80-85%). As a guide, this means that a rabbit should eat their body size in hay a day. This increases grinding, dental wear and promotes gut movement.
Pellet foods are advised over a mixed muesli as rabbits will pick their favourite parts of the food, often leaving the most nutritional parts. Feed a maximum of one tablespoon per day for dwarf and standard rabbits and two tablespoons for giant breeds.
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 Eastcott Veterinary Clinic 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