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Dog Dental Care

Dental problems are the most commonly diagnosed health issue in all dogs over the age of three years and just as for us, a toothache really hurts!  Regularly maintaining their teeth at home as well as annual vet checks will ensure that a dog’s teeth and gums remain healthy and reduces the risk of hefty medical bills later on. 

Bad breath in dogs is caused by the bacteria in the mouth and is an indicator of dental disease. A dog’s teeth accumulate food debris and bacteria which combine with saliva to form plaque on the tooth.  If plaque is not removed, within three to five days it can harden to form tartar which irritates the gums causing gingivitis and bad breath.   If this is not dealt with early, it can progress to tooth loss, bleeding from the mouth and decreased appetite.  At this stage, the damage is irreversible.

In serious cases of dental disease the gums become inflamed and start to bleed allowing the bacteria to enter the blood stream potentially causing septicemia.  This may lead to life threatening illnesses such as kidney or heart failure or damage to other organs.

Signs of advanced gingivitis or gum disease in dogs include bad breath, reddened gums, yellowish-brown tartar on teeth, pawing at the mouth and drooling.  Teeth might be visibly discoloured, fractured or even missing and there may be swelling along the jaw line.  When gum disease becomes severe or painful lesions occur the dog may not be able to eat and so loses weight and becomes generally unwell.

A toothache hurts a dog just as it hurts us.  Sadly, by age three, 80% of dogs will show signs of gum disease and this only gets worse as they get older.

ANNUAL VET CHECK
Annual veterinary check-ups are important for general dog health and these also provide an opportunity to have the teeth examined and if necessary, a professional dental clean carried out.

A regular dental check-up will start with the vet examining the dog’s face for swelling or discharge and then checking the oral cavity and surfaces of the teeth and gums for tartar or inflammation.

If the teeth have tartar, the vet will remove this, flush the mouth with an antibacterial solution and polish the surfaces.  If dental disease is severe, extractions may be necessary after which an antibiotic injection is given.  The vet will often prepare a take-home dental care plan for the owner.

FEEDING THE CORRECT FOOD
Canine dental and oral health foods are clinically proven to reduce plaque, stains and tartar buildup and reduce the amount of bacteria and therefore bad breath in the mouth.  Some formulations also contain added antioxidants to promote a healthy immune system.

Canine dental health foods are premium dry biscuits specially designed for dental health and have a mildly abrasive action on the teeth as the dog chews.  The shape of each biscuit is designed to scrub all surfaces of the teeth to help remove the bacterial plaque that hardens into tartar.  Dry food also stimulates the gums and encourages chewing making the whole mouth area healthier.

Feeding dental and oral health dry food to a dog is much like getting them to clean their teeth every day.  Combine this with an annual vet check and regular manual tooth brushing and he will have healthy teeth to last a lifetime.

There is no need to supplement dog dental health foods with table scraps or other foods as they are complete and balanced and provide all the nutrition a dog needs.  However, if the dog enjoys occasional additions of wet food, speak to our team at Better Pets and Gardens for the one that is most suitable.

CANINE DENTAL TREATS AND TOYS
When a dog chews or gnaws for a length of time, the salivary glands are stimulated causing more saliva to be released into the mouth.  Saliva contains antibacterial properties which work with the scrubbing action of the dog chew to help control plaque buildup.

Dogs should get the chance to chew for at least 30 minutes every day or at least every second day to prevent plaque build up.

Choose a dog chew or dental toy to suit the size of the animals mouth as they lose their effectiveness if they are eaten or demolished too quickly or with little effort.

There are several commercially produced dog chews designed specifically for dental and oral health and these should be incorporated into a dog’s regular diet.  Alternatively, synthetic chew toys are texturised to give a dog’s teeth a good scrubbing as they chew.  There are chew toys suitable for both adults and puppies.

Dogs should never be fed cooked bones or chicken bones as they splinter and can get wedged in their mouth, throat or stomach.  Whether to feed raw meaty bones is a point of contention as these are very hard and can cause broken teeth so if unsure, seek the opinion of a veterinarean.

Tartar can build up in as little as 24 to 48 hours so it is important to brush a pet’s teeth as regularly as possible.  Brushing three times a week could reduce the risk of suffering dental disease by up to 90%.

DENTAL CARE AT HOME
Dental home care should include:

  1. Brushing the dog’s teeth at least three or four times a week.
  2. Dental exercisers and chew treats every day or two.
  3. Feeding dry food at mealtime that is especially designed for dental health and reduces plaque and helps control oral bacteria.

BRUSHING A DOG’S TEETH
Starting the routine of brushing a dog’s teeth can be difficult since it is a strange sensation for them.  Although you can teach an old dog new tricks, it is far better to start the process of cleaning their teeth whilst they are still a puppy.  Use patience, some gentle coaxing and lots of treats.

STEP 1: Wash hands well and start by gently touching the mouth and rubbing a finger along the gum line.  Flavour the finger with chicken or tuna juice to help the dog enjoy the process.

STEP 2: Wrap a piece of gauze around the finger or use a washcloth.  Dip it in water and gently scrub the teeth along the gum line until the dog is more comfortable with the scrubbing sensation.

STEP 3: Progress to a special dog toothbrush or rubber finger brush keeping each session short, even if this means that only one or two teeth are cleaned.  Stop before the dog becomes restless.

STEP 4: Introduce flavoured pet toothpaste but never use toothpaste for humans as this could make them sick.  Brush the teeth in a small circular motion on the outside surfaces to start with.

STEP 5: Once the dog is comfortable with having a few teeth cleaned, progress to the full set.  Pay particular attention to where the teeth and gums meet, holding the brush at a 45° angle so as to reach the gum line.

Always end each session positively with a reward for the dog.  A special treat or a fun game will make the next session far more enjoyable.