top of page

Home > Resources > Senior Pet Care > Tooth Problems

Living Well With Tooth Problems

One of the most important advances in the last ten years of the increasing awareness, and skill of veterinary dentists. After all, dental disease will affect every single dog, cat or rabbit on the planet.


Although overlooked by many as insignificant or 'something to keep an eye on', the truth is that dental disease is the commonest disease your pet is likely to be suffering and most will develop the painful disease by the age of three years without proper homecare and trips to the vet dentist.


Whilst not being as painful as a broken limb, animals with dental disease suffer chronic and acute pain from gum infections, broken teeth and bacterial spread through the circulation. Animals with severe cases will lose years of quality of life as a result. So what does dental disease look (and more likely smell) like? And how can you help your senior pet live a great life if he suffers from it?


How to spot if your senior pet has a dental problem.


  • He has bad breath - if you need a gas mask to get kisses from your pet then that is a sign of infection running out of control.

  • Brown teeth - usually accompanied by the sewer breath.

  • Cracked or worn teeth - bones, balls and stones break teeth which are very sore but can also lead to abscess development (which is agony).

  • Picky eater, won’t eat biscuits or only chews on one side - all classic symptoms of pain on chewing.

  • Drooling or pawing at the mouth - same as above. Pain.

  • Pain when you touch the muzzle - does your pet freak out when you try to open his mouth?

  • Bleeding gums - Healthy gums are pink and don’t bleed when touched. If they bleed then there is a disease.


If your pet has got any of these things going on then book a visit with your vet to get things diagnosed and then fixed. We also call dental disease the silent killer because many animals with problems won't appear ill at all - even when they have multiple loose teeth and are in agony. And one more thing. Pets with dental pain will keep on eating… so do not be fooled. Animals will eat through insane levels of pain!


Dentistry for Senior Pets

If your pet has a problem then please don’t leave it just because he is old. Many vets regularly and safely perform dentals on older animals ages fifteen or older and they are some of the most rewarding cases to treat. Owners almost always report that their dog or cat has gotten a new lease of life, and it is also sadly common for people to feel a little guilty and wish they have done something sooner to help.


And though we know the thought of an anaesthetic for an older pet can seem a little scary please also remember that your vet team are highly trained to undertake these procedures every day. 


Prevention of Dental Problems

Whatever the state of your pet's teeth, the bottom line is prevention is much better (not to mention cheaper, safer and easier) than cure. There are several simple ways in which you can keep your pet's teeth clean and healthy.


1. Stop feeding your pet rubbish! - Many commercial pet foods are very high in fats and sugars. An animal fed only tins or pouches of wet food will be at a massively increased risk of dental problems (and obesity).


2. Start feeding your pet a diet like Hill’s T/D - this is especially good for cats and what one of our practice partners Dr Dave feeds his cats on. This food is a prescription diet that actively cleans your pet's teeth when they chew it.


3. Brush your pet's teeth once every day with Virbac's enzymatic toothpaste. Do this from a young age if possible.


4. Chew toys can help to keep a dog's teeth clean.


5. Book in for a yearly oral health assessment and cleaning under a light general anaesthetic. This is a low-cost, high-value procedure rather like when you see a hygienist.


All of the above products are available from vets so ask about them when your next visit.



When you last had a toothache you probably got it sorted out fast. Our pets will similarly suffer from a toothache if an infection develops so why should they have to put up with it?


All too often they are unwittingly left to suffer in silence. Put what you have learned in this article to good use and take the first step now. Does your pet have smelly breath? If so then it's almost certainly got a dental disease.


If you are unsure about possible problems with your pet's teeth then book an appointment with your vet today.

Dr Liz Munro, an end of life care veterinarian

Worried your pet may be struggling? Reach out to our team today.

bottom of page