How to look after your dog’s teeth, a Vet’s guide.

How to look after your dog’s teeth, a Vet’s guide.

Did you know that good dental health for your dog can mean an extra 4 years of life? Regularly checking and helping your pet keep their mouth healthy, is all part of good pet ownership.

Although more common in older dogs, dental decay problems can start as early as 2 years old, and is often diet related – checking the ingredients in your dog’s food is a great first step. Please contact us if you are unsure and our Vets will check your pet’s food: Contact our Vets here. 

Dental diseases can include:

– Consistently bad doggy breath
– Difficulty or change in eating speed
– Change or loss of appetite
– Visual tartar build up around teeth
– Bleeding and unusually red gums
– Pawing at the mouth
– Loose or loss of teeth

How does tooth decay happen? 

Just like in us humans, after a dog eats plaque builds up around teeth. If this plaque isn’t removed it turns into tartar, the hard browny-white substance you can sometimes see.

This tartar irritates the gum-line and causing gingivitis and bad breath. Left alone this can then exacerbate into gum ulceration, loose and then missing or broken teeth. Whenever you have ulceration or broken teeth you have an easy entry point for bacteria to infect the mouth and your pet’s blood which can be extremely painful and lead to death.

A lot of people also don’t know that bad teeth can also cause heart disease, a condition called endocarditis, which can be both debilitating and fatal.

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What can I do to keep my dog’s teeth clean?

First, giving a bone to a dog is NOT the same as brushing their teeth – more on bones in a future post!

For now, brushing your dog’s teeth with a toothbrush is something that you (and they) need to learn. The earlier you start the better to get into the right habit, but it’s easy to teach an old dog new tricks too.

Here’s the steps to make it easy and comfortable:

STEP 1 – PREPARE: It’s important to never restrain your dog while brushing their teeth. Sit with them on the floor and gradually work up. Also NEVER use human toothpaste on a pet as it can cause stomach upsets. Your local vet or pet store will stock doggy toothpaste that won’t make them sick. 

STEP 2 – BUILDING TRUST: Start by simply putting a bit of wet food on your finger and get your dog lick it off. As they do this try to rub your finger over as many of their teeth as possible – starting with the front ones. Do this for a couple of days gradually trying to touch or rub more teeth further back each day. Make these sessions short to begin with, then try to lengthen them a little each day.

STEP 3 – REMOVE THE FOOD: Gradually, introduce gauze over the finger and gently scrub the teeth in a circular motion. Ask your Vet about this gauze, or try using some super soft cotton cloth.

STEP 4 – INTRODUCE THE TOOTHBRUSH: It needs to be a soft toothbrush. You can use a pet-specific one or an “ultra-soft toothbrush” designed for people. Special pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are available from your veterinarian or speciality pet stores. Remember: don’t use toothpaste designed for people because it could upset your dog’s stomach.

And be sure to book in regular Vet appointments. Like us, all pets should have a regular dental check-up to examine their teeth and if necessary, a professional clean.

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Why does my dog or cat eat grass?

Why does my dog or cat eat grass?

As a Vet, I get asked regularly by worried pet owners about their dog, or cat eating grass – especially if they are eating grass and then vomiting. It’s been a long-held belief that pets (especially cats) eat grass to “tickle their throat to be sick.”

But far more often, chances are your cat or dog is “just having a chew”. Wild dogs and cats did it, and eating grass is most often a perfectly normal behaviour, especially for puppies and younger dogs.

Some researchers even suggest that dog’s and cat’s don’t have a high enough IQ to “decide” to treat an upset stomach with grass – but like all research, there’s always more that needs to be done.

Pica, a medical term you might hear.

Pica is the medical term we use to describe pets eating things that aren’t considered “food.” Pica can indicate that your pet could be malnourished, but with the quality of pet foods in Australia, it is VERY rare to see a malnourished family dog or cat.

Over-feeding on the other hand is super common. Pica involving grass is very common and Vets consider it completely normal.

Some grass-eating statistics.

Some dogs and cats actually love grass as the roots/stems can be very sweet, or it just feels good to chew on. But let’s summarise some stats from a few studies we looked at in Vet school – there’s quite a few online reports if you wanted to delve a bit deeper. Fewer than 20% of cats and dogs are actually sick after eating grass, and of those, very few are doing it for medical reasons.

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Even so, take precautions with your garden.

Please be extremely careful when using pesticides, fertilisers and herbicides on or near plant material which is accessible to your pets.

These can make your pets quite sick if enough of it is eaten or licked off the plant. Also if you are planting new plants in your garden please check carefully that they are non-toxic to pets.

Purple and red plans are big warning signs, so please double check before revamping your garden or indoor plants!

So what do you need to remember?

1. Dogs and cats eating grass are completely normal.
2. If your pet vomits after eating grass, keep an eye on it but don’t panic.
3. If vomiting is regular, getting a Vet check is recommended.
4. Some garden products or plants need to be avoided.
5. Remember to protect your pets against parasites.

 If you find your pet is eating grass but is okay, then don’t panic. But if they are unwell, please speak with your local vet to diagnose the underlying problem.

 … But remember that while eating grass is normal, be sure to see your local Vets if your cat or dog is regularly eating grass and sick, so they can diagnose the underlining problem.

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Travelling With Your Cat or Dog in Australia, a Vets Guide.

Travelling With Your Cat or Dog in Australia, a Vets Guide.

Us Aussie pet owners are passionate folk, in fact 98% of us consider our pets as “part of the family” – so it’s no wonder we take them on holidays with us.

With the explosion of Australian dog-friendly accommodation, off-leash parks and beaches, day trips are becoming common outings. And as travelling with pets becomes more common, we’re also travelling further with them.

For a first time holidayer (or even a seasoned tripper) there are a few things you should do to prepare your fur-buddy for a trip.

Is it your first time?

There are very few pets out there who just get in the car for the first time and not throw up, pee or poo – or in some cases, attempt a jump out the window.

Like people, it’s not just being a “new experience”, pets can have anxiety issues or just straight up car-sickness too.

So if it’s your first time, be sure to start with a super short ride to the local park, then build up to a day trip before doing any real serious travel.

The key is consistency, the less “new” things that happen, the less stressed they’ll get – which leads to the next point.

Restraining your pet in Australia.

By law in Australia, you MUST have your pet restrained in a moving vehicle. Whether it be a crate, a harness or properly restrained in the back of a ute for example. Gone are the days of your dog jumping in the passenger seat.

While there is no law in regards to seat belts specifically, as a Vet, I’ve seen what happens when an un-belted pet is in an accident. Around 5000 dogs a year in Australia are injured or killed from falling from a moving vehicle, according to RSPCA stats.

The RSPCA can also issue fines under “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”. If an unrestrained animal is injured, you could face up to 6 months jail and $5,500 in fines.

So “click-clack, front and back” (including the crate if you’re using one). Most pet stores sell harnesses that you simply slide a belt through and fasten as normal.

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What to take on holidays for your pet?


1. Your “pet travel bag”. 

Like kids, the more familiar a pet is with their environment, the less stress. A pet travel bag makes life easy – but be sure to pack their everyday stuff that they know.

Leashes, toys, bowls, jackets, kitty litter, food and medications all in one place means less time looking for things – you can check at a glance.

Most importantly, being plenty of food and water for the whole stay. Getting to a new destination and finding out they don’t have your pet’s regular food can be a problem. 

2. Medications and parasite-preventatives.

Your holiday destination may have different nasties to home, and your current protection regime may not cover everything you need. A good example is people travelling to coastal towns and not having paralysis tick prevention, simply because you live inland or a non-paralysis tick area.

Across is a map of where Paralysis ticks are in Australia (covered by all canine FleaMail plans), but call your Vet quickly as there may be other parasites to consider for your particular pet.

3. Plan your travel route around pee stops.

Knowing your route matters, like where dog parks and rest stops are along the way. Your pup needs a break about once an hour to stretch, have a drink and relax a little – even for 5 minutes. So knowing where there are a few stops along the way makes life a lot easier.

Pets also have much smaller bladders than people, and many have faster metabolisms. While a person can “hold it” while travelling for long distances, cats and dogs often cannot. Remember to stop!

And NEVER leave them alone at a campsite or in the car, even for 5 minutes. Dogs and cats can overheat (or worse) in no time, and get nervous in a new environment without you around.

Your Aussie Pet Travel Checklist:

After you feel your pet is comfortable on short trips, and you’re ready to venture a bit further (with your pet travel bag). Simply follow this pet checklist – and be sure to stop every hour or so for them while driving so they can answer nature’s call!

  • Food, enough for the whole stay
  • Water and familiar bowls
  • Familiar blankets
  • Familiar toys
  • Medications and Preventatives
  • Litter box, litter or poop bags
  • Brushes and grooming supplies
  • Car harnesses and tracking / council tags
  • Spare leads and collars if you have them

 … Happy adventures!! 

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What ingredients can you use to cook dog food? Here’s a Vet’s guide!

What ingredients can you use to cook dog food? Here’s a Vet’s guide!

Imagine having to eat the same thing, day in and day out – it’d get pretty boring right?

Or eating food that could be doing you damage, because dog food from a supermarket (Coles, Woolies, Aldi) is basically McDonald’s, plain and simple. It’s full of salt, poor quality meat, high in fat, high sugar, vast amounts of preservatives and additives – as well as the dry food containing up to 20% ash. Yes, you read that right, ASH. 

Cooking your dog’s meals can do wonders for their health, so let’s head to the kitchen with a Vet’s guidance!

The two BIG rules!

 Above all else, there’s 2 dog food rules:

Rule A: DOGS ARE NOT LITTLE PEOPLE. Dogs have very different physiology compared to humans and therefore need a specific diet.

Rule B: DOG FOOD NEEDS TO BE BALANCED. Each meal should include all of their nutritional needs, which we’ll jump into next!

What nutrients do you need?

For the right balance of macronutrients, your dog’s meal should follow the below guide:

1) 50% vegetables for carbohydrates and fibre.
2) 40% lean meat and offal for protein.
3) 10% fats and oils.

Personally, I try to avoid grains as they’re usually high in calories – and grains are by far the most common source of allergies in pets – but adding some whole grains or seeds can be beneficial if you use just a single unprocessed grain like brown rice, whole corn or flax seeds.

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Okay, now your dog food shopping list!


1. Vegetables (50% of ingredients) 

Vegetables are the key to mixing up your dog’s flavours and food, by using different vegetables you can be assured that your pet is going to be getting a whole range of amino acids, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Using as many colours as possible is a good rule of thumb for a good vegetable dietary profile. A bag of mixed frozen vegetables is super cheap now-days and can be given to your dog “raw” as well.

But remember, GARLIC, ONIONS and GRAPES are toxic to dogs – so never use them in their food.

2. Meat and offal (40% of ingredients) 

Lean meats and Offal are the building block of life, so for a growing pup or a high energy dog – a good source of high-quality protein is important. Using lean cuts of meat or mince (like chicken or turkey) is best. If you want to spoil your pooch with some steak, go for it, just be sure to trim the fat!

Dogs need 10 essential amino acids that primarily come from meats and protein rich legumes. By using offal, especially liver, heart and kidneys you can get more of these as well as extra nutrients like iron, B vitamins and zinc.

Just make sure the meat is ALWAYS cooked (we’ll cover this later – but raw can be quite dangerous).

3. Fats (10% of ingredients)

Fats help every cell in a dog’s body – and healthy cell membranes are the foundation of good health. Dietary fats are also required for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K which are all essential for good health and immunity. Dogs also cannot make poly unsaturated fats so these must be added to your dog’s food as well.

Some of the best fat profiles are a mix of two different types. 2/3 animal fat (chicken or pork is best) 1/3 seed oil (safflower oil or any oil high in polyunsaturated fats). Another great tip is to add ¼ of a tin of sardines in oil to your dog’s diet each night as well.

Having all the right fats will also help your dog’s coat, and skin stays shiny and super healthy.

The power of fresh water!

Additional to cooking your pet’s food, never underestimate the power of clean water – and water during meal time is essential to get the stomach and intestines running optimally and help maintain digestion.

Clean water, daily, in multiple bowls around the house/property will help your dog get all the fluids they need.

The raw diet ….problem.

We have one rule at our clinic, “no raw food, ever”. By raw food, we are referring to raw meat and eggs, not raw vegetables, grains or fruit. Although there seems to be a big online push for “raw” diets, it’s essential you know the risks.

Because it’s not actually the digestion of raw food, but the campylobacter and salmonella that run RIFE through raw meats and eggs when not cooked or stored in the right way. Raw food kills hundreds of pets each year all around Australia.

Just because a dog used to eat raw food in the “wild” doesn’t mean that it’s better for them – in fact, wild dogs live to only 5-7 years of age on average – something to consider if you currently feed your dog raw.

Raw food is too risky, and so are bones. But we’ll address this in another Blog article so you can make informed decisions.

 …. So for now, happy cooking – and enjoy the licks after your pup has devoured one of your delicious home cooked meals!!

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