Dental warning signs

Below you can find useful information on spotting warning signs for your pet's teeth

Many animals don’t show any signs of toothache, so it can be surprisingly easy to miss any dental problems in your pet. Here we highlight each species’ subtle symptoms, how you can spot them and what you can do to help.


1. Doggy breath

It’s common to assume that bad breath is normal, but it should never be ignored – it may be the beginning of gum disease (gingivitis). If your pet’s mouth seems even a little pongy, schedule a check-up with us. Click here to contact us, or click here to book an appointment.

2. Physical symptoms

You can spot dental issues in your dog by looking out for redness on the gums around his teeth, tooth discolouration as a result of plaque or tartar, or a loss of appetite caused by the difficulty of chewing.

3. A runny nose

Occasionally, dental issues can lead to a discharge from your dog’s nostrils. This happens when an infected tooth in the upper gum leads to an abscess, which leaks into the nasal cavity and results in a runny nose. If your dog seems to have cold-like symptoms, get us to check him out as soon as possible.

4. Tooth fractures and chips

Keep an eye out for what your dog chews on, as hard toys can cause tooth chips or fractures that may eventually lead to damage. Tennis balls that are used outside can be prime culprits, with the sand and grit that gets into their fabric, making them rough and abrasive.

What can you do

Brush your dog’s teeth daily with specially formulated animal toothpaste. Also check his entire mouth once a month, snapping some photos of his teeth when you do so. This can help you monitor for any chips or other issues, and may also be useful for your vet in diagnosing potential problems.


1. Halitosis

If you notice bad breath or any strange smells coming from your cat’s mouth, have us check it out as soon as possible. While it’s a known sign of dental issues, it may also indicate problems with her digestive system or kidneys. We can help to set her on the right course of treatment.

2. Physical symptoms

While some of the signs of dental disease in cats are similar to those seen in dogs, cats are especially prone to a condition called neck lesions. These aren’t actually found on her neck (rather, they appear on an area of the tooth called the ‘neck’) and look like red ‘cavities’ within the tooth enamel, close to the gum line. Other symptoms may include a loss of appetite and avoiding hard foods.

3. Less grooming activity

Cats that have pain in or around their mouths may be reluctant to groom. If your cat’s fur doesn’t seem as well cared for as usual, if you notice her pawing her face excessively, or she seems irritable and depressed, book an appointment to have her looked over.

What can you do

To get your cat used to tooth brushing, introduce her to ‘pretend’ sessions – with a cotton bud –  before moving onto a real toothbrush and animal toothpaste. Aim to do so after a petting session, when she’s relaxed and comfortable.


1. Drooling and salivation

If your bunnies dribble or often drop food from their mouths, it may be a sign of dental malocclusions (improperly formed teeth). Ask us to have a look at this as soon as possible; rabbits’ teeth grow constantly and if they aren’t properly aligned, they may become overgrown with sharp edges that can lead to mouth ulcers.

2. Weight Loss

Changing food preferences, a reluctance to eat or drink and weight loss are all warning signs of deeper health issues and usually indicate problems with your bunnies’ teeth. We can help you to assess the cause and give them the right course of treatment.

3. Physical Symptoms

Regularly check your rabbits for bad breath, drooling, swelling around their faces, discharge from their eyes or a lack of energy. A dirty bottom (from runny faeces) or loose droppings in your rabbit’s hutch are urgent signs of ill health. If you ever notice these, contact us as soon as possible.

What can you do

Prevention of dental disease could save your rabbits’ lives. The best way to do so is to check them over at least once a week, and to feed a diet high in abrasive grasses to aid the natural wearing down of their teeth.


1. Physical symptoms

Red gums and sharp tooth ‘spikes’ in your horse’s mouth are both signs that all is not as it should be. Other symptoms include a change in your horse’s eating habits, clearly undigested food in his droppings, or if he’s holding his head to one side while chewing.

2. Quidding

Partially chewed balls of hay in your horse’s mouth may indicate that he isn’t able to chew enough to swallow his food. ‘Hamster cheeks’, mostly seen in small ponies, can be another red flag. They’re a sign that food is getting trapped between your pony’s tooth edges and cheeks, or that he’s deliberately holding grass there to soften a tooth’s sharp edges.

3. Behavioural issues

If your horse is prone to bucking, has a one-sided head carriage, is irritable when asked to turn, or seems to have little energy, it could point to an underlying dental issue. Ask us to give him a once-over and we’ll be able to recommend the right course of treatment. Click here to contact your local branch.

What can you do

While preparing your horse for the bit, check his gums for redness or any irregular spikes on his teeth.