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Mouth problems are a big issue in all ages of animals. You can get dental disease, you can get gum disease, you can get tongue disease and palate disease. So depending on what species you have got and what breed you have got,
we are looking at different problems. So I will start with the younger animals, so the one thing that we may find with them is that they don't necessarily lose their baby teeth, which are the deciduous teeth. And they're mostly the canines. The problem with that is that if you have got an adult canine and a baby canine together, the roots are fighting for space. You are also getting infection potentially trapped between those teeth because there is no gap as there should be between the teeth. So what we normally do in those situations is give them time to fall out, and if they don't we would then recommend that they have an anaesthetic so we can extract the baby canines that are left, or baby teeth wherever they are. Going on, you are going to get wear and tear in their mouth. You dog may be a stone chewer, a stick chewer. It may not be and it may not chew at all, in which case the teeth may get dirty pretty quickly. The calculus of the plaque on the teeth is basically a buildup of bacteria. And what that over time does, is move and works on the gumline, and infects that gumline. The gum will then start to recede, and the routes will start to be exposed. You can then get infections around tooth roots, you can get swelling - mostly it is going to be painful when that happens - and a lot of the time, we would recommend that those teeth get extracted. If they stay and you have an infection around a tooth root, what you will find is that infection will then spread up, and then you may get swelling go to the nose or even around the eye, because infection is just spreading throughout that side of the face. So rather than let that happen, the best way is to look into dental care right from the word go. So always get your puppy, or dog if you get an older dog, get them used to you brushing their teeth, or at least using some sort of oral hygiene gel to try and prevent the build up of plaque in the first place. The other things that we find in smaller dogs, or I should say "brachycephalic dogs", which are the ones that we find have the very short faces, like bulldogs, pugs, French Bulldogs; they will have quite a squashed face, and then they will also have a squashed mouth. So they may not have all of the teeth in the first place because there is just not enough space for them, or they will have them, but because there isn't the space, they then get twisted; the teeth will get twisted in their roots, and that isn't an ideal situation. You can, your teeth are very close together, and you can then get the infections again or food trapped. And if you don't start brushing those teeth right from the beginning, you probably won't be able to introduce cleaning them later on, 2 or 3 years down the line, because they won't really accept you doing that.
The other thing that we do see, not commonly, but when it does happen, again they do tend to be quite aggressive tumours, are the cancers of the jaw or the tongue. We see them more commonly in cats than we do dogs, and like I saw, they are normally the aggressive tumours and sadly there isn't much we can do about those ones. There are loads of supplements and chews on the market that you can give your dog. I think the main rule is that if you are going to give them a chew, it may work if they actually chew it. If they do two bites and swallow it, it is probably not doing anything for their teeth. You also then need to consider that any chew you give them, they are extra calories to their diet for that daily intake. For example, there are Dentastix that I know attribute, are accountable for 10% of the daily ration of most dogs diets. So that is quite a lot then that you need to take out of their normal diet in order for them not to put on that weight. The other things you can use would be supplements, so there are supplements that you can put in their food such as a seaweed supplement know as Plakoff. Some people swear by that and say that it is very useful to keep their teeth clean. You can also get mouthwashes for dogs that you then add to their water. Again, they are supposed to break down the plaque or prevent the plaque buildup in the first place. You do need to be very careful with which ones you are using though, because there are certain one that have something called xylitol in them, and xylitol is toxic poison to dogs, so you need to make sure that you are using the right one. The first signs an owner might notice when their pet has a mouth problem is that they may paw at the side of their mouth, they may chew on a different side of the mouth if it is a one-sided issue, and you also might notice a smell, particularly in cats. They get quite strong smells from the bacteria that grow in their mouths, and also salivation. So they may dribble more than normal, or they may dribble after they have had a meal or dribble after they have had some water. That will often smell quite bad as well, the dribble that is coming out. So that will often be why they present to the vet, because of a smell that is coming or a discharge. The other thing that you may notice in your pet is that they may choose not to eat at all or they may prefer to eat the softer food rather than the dry food that you are offering them. You also will find that they will be quite sensitive, so they may not want to drink cold water, you may just need to warm it up a little bit if that is making it easier for them to drink.