National Pet Dental Health Month: Healthy Smiles for Happy Tails

As August is National Pet Dental Health Month, we would like to shine a light on how to keep your pet’s oral health in check. Feeding your pet a healthy, balanced diet is one way to reduce the risk of dental problems.  

Dental issues can be distressing for your pet, meaning it is very important to have regular dental health check-ups at your veterinarian. Learning to identify the signs and symptoms of various dental complications yourself can also prevent the escalation of serious dental health conditions. These conditions can be serious if left untreated, not only causing pain and disease in the mouth but may also spread to infections of the kidney, heart and liver – so it is vital for pet parents learn how to keep their furry friends safe from disease. 

Dental Disease in Dogs 

Dogs can develop a range of dental problems including broken teeth, misalignment of the teeth, infections and periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is very common in dogs and develops from a build-up of plaque and tartar. 

What does this look like? 

Inflamed or bleeding gums, as well as foul-smelling breath, are the most common signs of an underlying dental condition. If you notice this in your dog, we urge you to consult your veterinary clinic so that they can appropriately assess and treat the condition. The sooner you treat dental diseases, the better it will be for your dog; these diseases can cause your pooch significant discomfort and pain and can escalate into more serious conditions if left untreated for too long. 

Dental Disease in Cats 

Cats can also develop a range of dental diseases. Gingivitis and stomatitis are characterised by severely inflamed gums and mouth and may not be related to large amounts of tartar. However, just like dogs, cats frequently do suffer from an accumulation of tartar and plaque in their mouths. If left untreated, plaque and tartar build-up can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. 

What does this look like? 

Feline dental disease often manifests as bad breath, red, inflamed gums, and in some cases ulcerated lesions around the back of the mouth and base of the tongue. Your cat may have a loss of appetite, excess salivation, bad breath, lack of energy, change in mood and their gums may bleed easily. Your cat may also show signs such as pawing at the mouth or your cat’s coat may look poor if it is not able to groom itself well.  

Dental Disease in Rabbits 

Dental disease is one of the most common reasons rabbits require veterinary attention Dental health is generally associated with their diet. That is why it is important to give your rabbits access to adequately nutritious, high fibre food in addition to sunlight and vitamin D3 to keep their bones and teeth strong.  

What does this look like? 

Dental disease in rabbits can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including: 

  • drooling (indicated by saliva matting the fur on their chin/under their neck) 
  • loss of appetite or selective with food 
  • weight loss (can be seen or felt through prominent spine and pelvic bones) 
  • diarrhoea 
  • swelling of the face or upper/lower jaws 
  • nasal discharge 
  • teeth grinding 
  • white discharge from the eye and nose (due to blockage of the tear duct) – note that this is often mistaken for conjunctivitis 

Dental Disease in Horses 

Horses can suffer from a range of dental conditions including retention of deciduous teeth, broken teeth, periodontal disease and the overgrowth of the cheek teeth which can cause painful ulcerations in the mouth. Access to high fibre diets by grazing on grass and hay is important for maintaining good dental health in horses but regular dental examination by your equine veterinary dentist is also essential to monitor and treat any developing issues. 

What does this look like? 

Horses with compromised oral health may lose weight, eat less, have bad breath or be seen to drop food from their mouth or accumulate food in their cheeks. Sometimes reluctance to accept a bit in their mouth can indicate oral discomfort.  

How is Dental Disease treated? 

Only a physical examination by your local veterinarian will provide a sufficient assessment of your pet’s teeth. Your veterinarian will then take the appropriate steps to help you manage any dental issues. Your veterinarian may recommend that your horse needs sedation to assess its mouth completely and, similarly, dogs, cats and rabbits sometimes require a general anaesthetic for teeth to be completely examined.  

Depending on the stage of an animal’s dental disease, their teeth may be treated and thoroughly cleaned under general anaesthesia. Home care, such as antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication, may also be prescribed.  

If you suspect that your pet is experiencing dental health issues, it is important that you visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. Remember that dental diseases can cause severe pain and significant distress, particularly if an animals’ condition is left untreated.  

 A high-quality diet, that encourages chewing, is the best way to foster good dental health. However, regular dental check-ups at the vet are the only way to ensure that you are maintaining the dental health of your pets throughout the entire life.   


You can visit the RSPCA knowledgebase to learn more about your animal’s dental health.