Dental Disease & Bad Breath

Dental disease is the most common ailment affecting our pets – 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some degree of dental disease by the age of three years.1

Maintaining good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent dental disease. Prevention is better than a cure! 

Signs of Dental Disease

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Staining and build-up on teeth
  • Red, swollen and/or bleeding gums
  • Blood apparent on toys (excluding teething puppies)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Missing and/or loose teeth
  • Favouring one side of the mouth when eating
  • Reluctance to play with toys or eat
  • Dribbling
  • Lethargy

Stages of Dental Disease

  • Grade 0 – Normal healthy teeth with no signs of dental disease
  • Grade 1 – Gingivitis
  • Grade 2 – Early periodontitis
  • Grade 3 – Moderate periodontitis
  • Grade 4 – Advanced periodontitis

Consequences of Dental Disease

In addition to affecting the mouth, dental disease can contribute to a range of other health conditions including male sterility2, heart disease and kidney disease, and shorten the lifespan of your pet.

Preventing & Treating Dental Disease

See Dental Care for Dogs & Cats.

Bad Breath

The medical term for bad breath is Halitosis. It is unpleasant for us as well as our pets! 

Causes include:

  • Dental disease
  • Certain medical conditions such as tonsillitis
  • Coprophagia (eating faeces)
  • Licking of anus – can be due to full/irritated/infected anal glands, worms, consuming spicy food, or sores due to passing sharp bone fragments or other objects
  • Stick or bone fragments, or rotting food, stuck in teeth or lodged in the back of the mouth/throat 


  • Calculus – An off-white, yellow or brown hardened form of Plaque. More difficult to remove than Plaque. Leads to Halitosis, Tooth Decay and Periodontal Disease.
  • Cavity – Another term for Tooth Decay.
  • Dental Caries – Another term for Tooth Decay.
  • Dental Disease – Usually another term for Periodontal Disease but may also refer to Tooth Decay.
  • Feline Stomatitis – A painful inflammatory condition of the mouth in cats. Also known as Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis (FCGS).
  • Gingivitis – Inflammation of the gums, a mild form of Periodontal Disease.
  • Gum Disease – Another term for Periodontal Disease.
  • Halitosis – The medical term for bad breath.
  • Oral Disease – A health condition affecting the mouth, such as Periodontal Disease, Tooth Decay, cancer etc.
  • Periodontal Disease – Inflammation and infection of the gums.
  • Periodontitis – Another term for Periodontal Disease.
  • Plaque – A colourless or pale-yellow film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth. Leads to Calculus, Halitosis, Tooth Decay and Periodontal Disease.
  • Tartar – Another term for Calculus.
  • Tooth Decay – Breakdown of teeth. Permanent damage. Caused by Plaque.


1 RSPCA Australia Knowledge Base. (2019, September 23). How Should I Take Care of My Cat or Dog’s Teeth.  Retrieved from

2 Savant Harris, M. (2005). Canine Reproduction and Whelping: A Dog Breeder’s Guide. Dogwise Publishing.