Dental vet and founder of Sydney Pet Dentistry, Dr Christine Hawke, believes that every pet deserves a healthy, pain-free mouth. Unfortunately, an estimated 80% of dogs and cats have dental disease, often going unnoticed by their owners.
Pet dental problems can go on for years without any obvious signs, leaving animals in pain for quite a long part of their life.
Unlike their human counterparts, dogs don’t go around whining about a sore tooth so it takes a bit of detective work to find pet dental problems.
Our pets are not going to tell you they have a dental problem. In fact, because they are descended from wild animals, they instinctively avoid showing signs of weakness, which can be a real problem in diagnosing dental disease.
There is a huge difference between treating dogs and humans. Firstly, dogs have 10 more teeth than humans and the tooth roots are a lot longer, meaning that extractions can be very tricky. Dogs also won’t sit still in a chair so to perform any dental work a full general anaesthetic is required. However, dogs definitely feel dental pain, just like we do.
Christine’s passion for pet dentistry did not begin straight away. Starting out as a general practitioner, Christine then obtained a PhD in immunogenetics before taking up a role as an academic. The turning point in her career was when she was examining an old cat called Jasper, who had become very grumpy in his old age.
Jasper absolutely flipped when I tried to look in his mouth. I still have a scar on my arm from that episode! His teeth had deep holes in them (known as resorptive lesions). These were incredibly painful, yet he was still eating so it had gone unnoticed for some time. After we removed his damaged teeth, he was the sweetest boy again, and his owners were in tears and extremely grateful to have their affectionate boy back again.
Christine realised she needed to use her teaching skills and interest in pet dentistry to improve the dental health and welfare of our pets. She did this through teaching the small animal dentistry curriculum each year and setting up Sydney Pet Dentistry in 2007.
The services include referral dentistry for difficult cases from veterinarians from Sydney and surrounds, as well as running courses and teaching other veterinarians to further their knowledge in the dentistry field.
I love teaching, “ I am almost as passionate about teaching as I am about teeth! Most vets don’t get nearly enough training in dentistry at university, and many find dentistry frustrating and difficult. I get a real sense of satisfaction empowering vets to better help their patients, by helping them gain more confidence in their dental surgical skills.
Dr Christine has really found her niche and loves the fact that she can combine helping her own animal patients as well as the patients of vets all around Australia through her teaching programmes.
The most satisfying part of my job is when an owner comes in after we have treated their pet saying that their animal is acting like a puppy or kitten again, “ especially when they didn’t realise their pet was in pain from dental disease.
To find out more about Sydney Pet Dentistry, visit www.sydneypetdentistry.com.au or contact Dr Christine Hawke on 1300 838 336.