Many people do not realise that dental disease is very common in dogs, particularly gum disease. Breed, age and individual tendencies are factors which affect the speed at which dental disease can develop. Dental care should therefore be part of your daily routine and will help to ensure that your dog lives a happy and healthy life. Ignoring the need for dental care could result in your dog’s health suffering and ultimately reduce his life. Below are some tips to follow to avoid your dog developing dental problems.
You can also visit the how to clean your dog's teeth page for a helpful video from our Veterinary Director, Chris Laurence.
- Toothbrushing, when done regularly, is the most effective way of removing plaque from your dog’s teeth and keeping the gums healthy. It will also prevent bad breath. See 'how to clean your dog's teeth' for a video demonstrating this. Daily toothbrushing should start right away to prevent gum disease and tartar developing. With patience and time, your dog or puppy will soon learn to accept this as part of his daily routine.
- A good quality human toothbrush is the best type of brush for your dog. An adult toothbrush can be used for large and medium breeds, while a child’s toothbrush can be used for small to medium breeds. Puppy toothbrushes can be purchased from your vet, which are suitable for miniature or toy breeds. 'Finger brushes’ and soft brushes can be used initially to familiarise your dog with the sensation of toothbrushing.
- It is important to use pet toothpaste. These are flavoured so that dogs enjoy the taste and will co-operate with toothbrushing; malt flavour seems to be the favourite. Your dog will swallow all the toothpaste, so it should not contain any ingredient which may cause him harm. Pet dental products are readily available through your local veterinary surgery and some pet shops.
- Most dogs enjoy chewing. Select a safe rubber chew toy, such as a Kong or rawhide strip, which may also help to keep the teeth cleaner. Remember, dogs will chew with enough force to break their own teeth. Do not let your pet chew bones or stones, as this can break teeth or lead to serious health problems.
- A dog suffering with toothache will rarely show any signs of discomfort or changes in eating behaviour. You should, therefore, regularly check his mouth for any problems. Your dog’s teeth should be checked by a vet at least once a year.
- Things that you check for in the mouth: bad breath; red, swollen or bleeding gums; chipped or broken teeth. Also check that the gum line fits properly around all of the teeth and that there are no swollen or ulcerated areas in the mouth.
- Hereditary problems such as remaining milk teeth, malocclusion (when the upper and lower teeth do not meet properly), missing teeth, crowding and overgrown gums can all make the mouth more prone to gum problems.
- Puppies should have all their adult teeth by the age of seven months. All of the milk teeth should be lost by this time.