Should I brush my dog's teeth?

With around 80% of dogs over the age of 2 showing signs of dental disease and most insurance companies not covering for treatment, it’s important to start a home dental care plan early on in your dog's life. Dental disease occurs when tartar builds up on the teeth and causes inflammation of the gum line, known as gingivitis. Left untreated, this painful condition will destroy the teeth and gums and may even cause an abscess to form within the tooth root. This infection easily tracts into the bloodstream and in extreme cases can cause heart problems.

Plaque, a colourless film builds up on a daily basis in the mouth after eating. If left, it hardens and becomes tartar. This is seen as the brownish yellow staining on teeth. Once diagnosed with gingivitis, the only way to remove the tartar is by ultrasonic descaler. This procedure requires the patient to be under a general anaesthetic. Teeth that have large pockets around the gum line have to be extracted. How will I know if my dog has gingivitis? The most common complaint is bad breath. Other signs include difficulty eating, dribbling or pawing/rubbing the mouth. Both the vets and the nurses can check your dogs teeth in consult and advise whether or not there is a problem.

There are many different products that can be used at home to reduce the risk of gingivitis. The easiest treatment is diet. Feeding Hills t/d or Royal Canin Dental as the sole diet significantly reduces tartar build up. The secret is in the shape of the kibble. It is a larger shape than traditional kibble to encourage dogs to use their teeth and not just ‘inhale’ their dinner. As well as the size the kibble has special enzymes within them that prevents tartar from sticking. Feeding raw meaty bones a couple of times a week can also help reduce tartar. When feeding raw meaty bones always choose one appropriate to your dog's size and always supervise when chewing. Beware there is a risk of tooth fracture if the bone is too big.

If it is not possible to change your dog's diet, using Hexarinse daily works just as well. This liquid is a pet friendly rinse that works the same way mouthwash does with people. If you’re prepared to go one step further and give your pet the ‘gold standard’ of dental treatment you can brush their teeth. This can take time for you and your dog to get used to. Start by gaining your dogs trust by gently lifting their gum and rewarding with treats when they comply. Continue on to touching their teeth and gums just with your finger, again rewarding good behaviour. Once you and your dog are ready, the brushing can begin. Only ever use toothpaste made for dogs, human toothpaste is toxic. When brushing, focus on the incisors (the front teeth) and the canines (fangs). Gently brush the teeth in a circular motion, trying to avoid brushing the gums. Don’t stress too much about brushing the larger molars at the back. These are taken care of by the diet listed above. Dogs should have a dental check at least once a year. This is usually done at the same time as their vaccination.

Don’t forget the cat! Cat’s also develop dental disease. Most cat’s do not allow their owners to brush their teeth, so diet is the best home treatment. The diets listed above are also made for cats as well. Raw chicken wings or chicken necks are good sized bones for cats to chew.

If you have any concerns about your pet's dental health, make an appointment to speak to one of our staff.