Dental Disease In Pets, The Silent Killer – Part 1


This is a subject very close to my heart. Ever since I graduated, I always struggled with educating my clients about the importance of dental hygiene in their beloved pets.

As soon as I noted some tartar or plaque build-up on their pet’s teeth and before I could discuss my recommendations, they would defensively react by saying:

“Look the previous vet said my dog is too old to undergo a general anesthetic and I agree with his/her opinion”.

At that point, they were not even open to listening to any advice with regards to managing their pet’s dental disease whether medically with pulse antibiotic therapy or dietary support to help prevent further progression. In all honesty, I could not blame those owners for reacting the way they did especially when my colleagues had further fueled their fears.

Yes geriatric pets pose a higher risk of anesthetic and there is no two ways about it. However, veterinary care has advanced and we now possess a range of equipment and knowledge to assist in offering excellent monitoring of our patients while they are under general anesthetic. At our current clinic, we offer if not insist on conducting a pre-anesthetic blood test and intraoperative intravenous fluid therapy for any geriatric patient undergoing surgery. This helps us make better choices of anesthetic regimens tailored to our patients. The intravenous fluid therapy ensures our patient’s blood pressure does not plummet during the anesthetic and this helps them recover better.

Fortunately, many of my colleagues that once used to recommend overlooking your geriatric pet’s dental disease have shifted their mind set. They have come to realise that ignoring your pet’s tooth aches is in fact compromising their health.

Your pets are simply suffering in silence.

When was the last time you suffered from a tooth ache? I don’t know about you but I cannot forget the pain I endured including the relentless headache and many sleepless nights before my dentist sorted my cavity. So please just put yourself in your pet’s shoes when your vet alerts you to their dental disease. Now please raise your hand if you hate the dentist as much as I do. I sincerely wish I could undergo a general anesthetic for all my dental procedures. Speaking of which, I hope John my dentist isn’t reading this because I appreciate all his hard work and attention to detail. LOL

Now let me get back to my gorgeous old patients and their dental ailments. I have found the shock factor a powerful tool at enlightening my clients about the significance of addressing their pets’ periodontal disease. They often ask me: “What is the worst that can happen if I decide to forgo the dental?” I go on to explain the threatening conditions involved with that decision.

Just like in people, progression of dental disease can potentially lead to a blood borne infection followed by organ failure.

I emphasize to them that in a few months, they may bring back their beloved pet to me and he or she may have developed irreversible kidney or heart failure which could have been PREVENTED! I push the emotional envelope even further when I say: “I think that leaving your pet untreated and tolerating so much pain is very inhumane. Losing them under general anesthetic is the lesser of two evils”.

Despite my guidance, I still get a few owners that are not convinced and simply not ready to part with their much loved pets even for a life-saving dental procedure.
I am really hoping that my current post and the ones that follow on the subject of veterinary dentistry curve the opinions of many of you about the importance of veterinary dental hygiene and away from the tinted public opinion that veterinarians push for dentals to make extra money.

For those of you that are guilty of allowing your pets to shower you with their kisses (myself included), I wonder if you would allow them to continue to do so if they have developed a horrible breath.

Would you be able to push Bond away if he ran up to kiss you?


For those of you that are mortified of losing your pet under a general anesthetic, please don’t drown yourself in those fears and do what is best for your pet.

For those of you that don’t even look into your pet’s mouth unless they have a bone stuck in there, it is about time you took some initiative.

For the inspired readers and the brave hearted, please do not pounce on your very defensive dogs and pry their mouths open to check if they have any hidden dental ailments or to pull out a lodged bone. We do not want you to incur any serious injuries and that is a task best left for the experts (yes I mean us, the veterinarians).

Sedating your very aggressive or distressed pet is the safest and kindest approach for a thorough oral examination.

Here’s a picture of a sedated dog with a bone lodged in the roof of its mouth

Bone stuck in roof if mouth

And now everyone, I will have you know that you are very lucky as I have opted to exhibit some restraint with using graphic photographs in my first dental post. Consider this post an induction course. I hereby acknowledge that I will not be so merciful in the subsequent posts.

Please note that pets of all ages are prone to periodontal disease so do not assume that your pet is too young to have any issues.

Be proactive and get your pet comfortable with allowing you to inspect his/her mouth from a very young age. Please make sure to only utilise positive reinforcement methods in your training

Say hi to Idrie. Doesn’t she just make you want to smile?


Well I was also quite impressed with her owner as she had brought her in for an oral examination. She was concerned about her malocclusion.


idrie's mouth

Unfortunately, her dog was almost fully grown and I could only explain to her that “Idrie” will be prone to developing dental disease secondary to her malocclusion. We focused on discussing preventative care and that included brushing her teeth and putting her on an appropriate diet. She had to abstain from feeding her any soft food. We discussed the raw meat diet such as Dr. Bruce’s Raw-76 and raw bones or premium dry food dog brands tailored for dental care e.g. Hill’s Science Oral Care or t/d (prescription) or Royal Canine dental selection. Recently, I attended a dental conference and learnt that early identification of malocclusions in a developing puppy can now be corrected by a veterinary dentist. I will definitely be giving owners this option in the future.

Another very common dental issue that affects puppies and kittens is retained deciduous teeth. In theory, your juvenile pets should lose their deciduous teeth naturally but some simply don’t and that can interrupt the eruption of their permanent teeth. Only last week, I was examining ‘Tinkerbell’, the cutest 14 month old Cavoodle and I discovered she had two retained upper canines. She will require a full general anaesthetic to extract them.

Can you believe ‘Tinkerbell’ is 14 months old? I personally think she looks like a 10 week old puppy.


Here are pictures of a puppy and a kitten that were booked in for routine de-sexing and I discovered they had retained canines and resorted to extracting them.

Retained canine

Retained canine

Retained canines

Retained canines

Lastly, let me make it perfectly clear that your pets are really good at hiding their dental disease so just because they continue to eat; this does not indicate they are free of pain.

I think I have overloaded you with enough information for one session. In the next post, I will discuss the subtle signs to look out for that may indicate your pet is battling with a sore tooth. In the meantime, I welcome your feedback and comments with open arms


Go To Part 2 >>




Rayya The Vet

I was born overseas and grew up in Lebanon. About 9 years ago, I left my family and friends behind to pursue my dream of becoming a veterinarian in Australia.

I have now been out in practice for the past 5 years. I absolutely love being involved with all types of animals and consider it my "calling". Whilst my job can be quite an emotional rollercoaster ride, I cannot fathom doing anything else for as long as I am living. I simply feel blessed every day that I am practicing what I truly love.

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