When was the last time you brushed your dog’s teeth? Of course, we’re all great at remembering to brush our own teeth, but your dog’s teeth also need regular brushing and care. Poor oral hygiene can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health and they rely on us as owners to look out for dental health.
Looking after your dog’s teeth
Oral disease is the largest health problem in dogs, with 60% of dogs experiencing some form of oral disease by the age of just two years old. While dental problems can be extremely painful, dogs usually don’t show outward signs of pain so it can be tricky to spot. However, if left untreated it can significantly reduce their quality of life and may be a catalyst for other serious health conditions.
Prevention is key and taking a few small steps from now on can help to improve your dog’s dental health. These include:
- Brushing their teeth with dog-friendly toothpaste (with a small soft brush)
- Providing the right diet
- Regular check-ups with your vet
The first year or two of your dog’s life is the best time to create good habits, and creating a regular dental routine is no exception – although it’s never too late to start a new routine.
Why do you need to keep your dog’s teeth clean?
The dangers of dental disease
While many problems are associated with poor dental health, one of the most common in dogs is periodontal disease. This begins with a build-up of plaque that when left to harden turns into tartar and causes painful gum inflammation and infection.
This makes eating and chewing toys extremely uncomfortable or painful, so a loss of appetite or hesitancy to play with toys could be an indicator of dental disease. You may also notice weight loss, eating on one side of the mouth, dropping food when eating, bad breath, tooth loss, and excessive drooling.
How to spot and remove plaque from dogs' teeth
Plaque is a sticky layer that develops from saliva, food and bacteria which can develop into a build-up of brown tartar. Daily tooth brushing with dog-safe (and tasty) toothpaste is the best way to prevent and remove plaque and tartar, two of the biggest causes of dental disease. If your dog already has a build-up of tartar, it’s best to seek advice from your vet as this is difficult to treat at home with just a toothbrush.
How to care for your dog’s teeth
Keep their diet healthy
When feeding your dog, it’s worth:
- Avoiding feeding them sugary or starchy treats. These encourage bacterial growth in plaque, which releases acid that can cause teeth to decay
- Feeding them dry food – dogs that eat this are less likely to suffer from dental disease in adulthood. That’s because the hard texture of the kibble helps remove plaque, and prevents food and bacteria gathering around the gum line
Brush their teeth
Although not always easy, brushing your dog’s teeth is the most effective way to ensure they remain clean and plaque-free. There are a variety of pet toothpastes and brushes available. Talk to your vet about what would work best for your dog. It may sound obvious but remember never to use human toothpaste as it’s toxic to animals. Watch our short video on how to brush your dog's teeth.
The best time to attempt brushing your dog’s teeth is after they’ve had sufficient exercise and are calm and relaxed. If your dog becomes agitated and shows signs of stress, don’t continue; start slowly and increase the brushing time every day. Brushing is best done daily. If you’re unable to brush your dog’s teeth, it’s worth discussing this with your vet at your next health check or appointment.
Occasionally provide dental chews
You can give your dog a dental chew every now and then as they help with bad breath and improve dental health, reducing tartar and plaque build-up. The act of chewing will massage your dog's gums and clean their teeth naturally. However, chews should be given sparingly and are not a substitute for regular tooth brushing.
Take them for regular check-ups
No one is more qualified to clean your dog’s teeth than your vet. We offer complimentary dental checks, and many of our practices also offer specialised dental clinics.
Expert dog dental care adviceWatch our top tips on how to care for your dog's teeth.
If you have any questions about your dog’s dental health or would like to find out more, contact your local Medivet practice.
*T&Cs: One complimentary dental check per pet. Not valid for pre-existing conditions. Any treatment, further tests, or examinations required will be chargeable at the standard rate. Medivet reserves the right to withdraw this offer at any time without prior notice. For our full terms and conditions, click here.