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Preventative dental care for your dog

Keeping your pet’s teeth clean is important for his/her health. It is a good idea to consider how you will manage their oral hygiene well before their adult teeth come through.

Getting your puppy comfortable with you examining his/her mouth and gently introduce brushing will make your job much easier when they are adult.
Health problems associated with dental disease

Good dental hygiene prevents dental disease, which usually starts with plaque build-up on the teeth. If left, that becomes tartar, which pushes the gums back allowing bone loss and infection to take hold. This process goes on to cause:

  • Pain – animals do not exhibit pain in the same way as people, behaviour changes can be very subtle. By the time they stop eating the dental disease is often very severe and will have been proceeded by months of  increasing discomfort
  • Organ damage – studies have shown that severe dental disease can lead to heart, liver, kidney and respiratory problems
  • Tooth loss – if tartar is allowed to build up it will result in the need for a scale and polish under general anaesthetic or if left  untreated will ultimately lead to receding gums, this will expose the tooth root and require dental extraction under a general anaesthetic
  • Bone destruction – advanced dental disease can result in bone destruction. There is a communication between the mouth and nose, which can lead to further complications such as; spontaneous fractures of the jaw and severe pain

Dental diets

There are special diets (Hill’s t/d) available in a complete biscuit form that are proven to mechanically remove plaque from teeth (effectively like brushing), unlike normal dry food which has little effect in removing plaque. The dog dental diets are very effective as long as your dog chews his/her food. These are suitable for adult dogs, so when your dog is swapping from puppy to adult food this is an ideal diet to choose.
Brushing your pets teeth

Tooth brushing has been shown to be the most effective way of keeping dental deposits from building up on the tooth surfaces, as long as you can brush effectively.

You will need a (soft) toothbrush and a tooth paste formulated for pets. You must use a pet tooth paste as the human tooth pastes have a high fluoride content which can be toxic to cats and dogs. Getting your pet used to being handled and touched around the mouth is a good first step. Always reward them afterwards e.g. Praise, a treat, a walk or their dinner!

Start the process gradually, getting your pet used to you touching its gums, until you start to brush one tooth a day.

Move up to a couple of teeth per day and soon you will be doing one side per day. Then eventually brush the whole mouth, although there is no need to brush the inside of the teeth. The technique is really the same as for humans; a circular movement around the area where the tooth meets the gum.

Using a finger brush is good way to introduce the action of brushing but is not recommended for long term use. If some bleeding occurs try to persist, it will soon stop as you keep the area free of plaque and the gums heal.


(Taken in part from the British Veterinary Dental Association Website.)

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