Dental guide for Dogs and Cats

Learn how to look after your pet's teeth and gums

Many pets experience dental problems after the age of two. As one of the most common health issues facing both cats and dogs, it's really important to look after their teeth and gums from an early age.

How will I know if my pet has tooth decay or gum disease?

Your pet may not let on if they're suffering from toothache, so you need keep an eye out (and a nose, in some cases) for the tell-tale signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding, red or swollen gums
  • A red line along the gum
  • Brown/yellow plaque
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Drooling
  • Signs of discomfort when eating or only eating on one side of the mouth
  • Reduced appetite
  • Any unusual swellings on their face

What can I do to look after my pet's teeth and gums?

  • Visit your vet for regular dental check-ups, preferably every 6 to 12 months.
  • Feed your pet a diet specially formulated to look after their teeth e.g. Hill's Prescription Diet t/d or Royal Canin Dental. An alternative is to ensure that you're feeding your furry friend a mixture of wet and dry food, as crunching on kibble can help reduce the build-up of plaque.
  • Give them dental health treats and chews – both a treat for your pet and for their mouth!
  • Try mouthwashes and gels specially formulated for pets.
  • Brush your pet's teeth. Learn how to introduce this into your pet’s routine below.

How do I clean my pet's teeth?

Cleaning your pet's teeth might seem like a wacky idea but it can be a good way to minimise their chance of developing painful and nasty teeth and gum problems. Your pet probably isn't going to like it at first – if ever – but you have a much better chance of them getting used to it if you start brushing from an early age. Here's how:

  • Buy a suitable pet toothbrush and special pet toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste on them (as it's potentially very dangerous) and never share brushes amongst your pets – they need one each!
  • Familiarise them with the taste of toothpaste by putting some on your finger and encouraging them to lick it off. If they're not playing ball, try putting a small amount of toothpaste on their nose so they get used to the smell – eventually they should take it from your hand. Repeat for a few days in a row.
  • Once they are comfortable with this feeling, start introducing the toothbrush. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle next to the gum line and start brushing with soft, circular movements, just like you do to your own teeth.
  • Don't get cross if your pet doesn't respond very well – be patient. They may never take to having their teeth brushed, in which case it's not worth the stress for you or your pet. Instead, concentrate on the other ways that you can help to keep your pet's teeth healthy that we've mentioned above.

Our articles are not a replacement for face-to-face vet advice. It’s important to consult with your vet on a regular basis to raise any pet concerns that you may have.

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