If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have tooth ache, gum disease or even a dreaded root canal, you’ll know just how miserable it is to suffer from these kinds of inflictions. As many as 80% of dogs face these same issues, suffering silently with oral health issues and often unbeknownst to us, their pawrents.
why is it important for dogs to have healthy teeth?
Just as in humans, plaque occurs naturally for dogs collecting on the surface of teeth and under the gum line. Left undisturbed it can lead to serious issues. Plaque itself is difficult to see, but after a while it calcifies and develops into tartar a hard, brown/yellow stain or deposit on the tooth.
Plaque and tartar can lead to a whole range of issues like gingivitis, pyorrhoea, cavities and periodontitis. If these issues are left to develop not only are they incredibly painful but can evolve into something serious and even life threatening. Pre-emptive action is the best way to avoid these issues and introducing a simple daily routine will lead to longer happier lives for you both.
4 simple ways to get those bad dog teeth in shape?
- It all starts with what goes in – choose a high-quality food with lots of meat, no nasties and the right ingredients to develop strong teeth for your dog. We advocate the inclusion of a high quality dry food to help scrape off tartar as your dog chews.
- Regularly brushing their teeth – if you’ve never tried this before, read on for our how to guide and to understand how often to brush your dog’s teeth. We’ll admit it’s not always an easy task but stay strong, be vigilant and you’ll start reaping the benefits
- Put down the dog treats – a complete diet and lots of love is all your dog needs but in moderation and with the right doggie treats, that's okay and helpful for training your dog, particularly in Fido's early years. Be sure to check the ingredients to avoid nasties – believe it or not some treats including those marketed as dental chews contain sugar.
- Give the dog a bone – Raw bones make the perfect treat and can help promote healthy teeth. As they chew bones help scrape teeth clean knocking off tartar. Be careful not to give pork, chicken or fish bones nor cooked bones to avoid splintering.
how can I check my dog's oral health?
The simple answer is to look inside their mouth. The first sign of oral health problems is bad breath and it can be deadly! As dental problems worsen you may find that your dog is reluctant to eat and may show signs of losing weight. We recommend you regularly check inside for tell-tale signs of tartar, plaque and swollen gums as well as an annual dental examination at the vets to keep your pets teeth healthy. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet to thoroughly check their teeth, gums and breath. If on inspection you notice tartar build up or other signs of oral health problems, it’s best to consult with your vet. You might require a professional clean or even surgery.
dog teeth cleaning musts
Arm yourself with:
- A suitable brush – most pet shops stock a whole array of options here from finger brushes to those more like your own. Most will do the trick just fine, but think about the size of your dog’s mouth and if you’re starting new, what they’re likely to let you put in their mouth.
- Dog friendly toothpaste – it’s important not to use human toothpaste, as they usually contain fluoride, which is toxic to dogs.
- Patience & determination – but you already made it this far, you’ll be fine!
If you’re dealing with an adult dog, like our Smudge was, they will likely not be overly pleased at the idea of you forcing a brush into their mouth even with the bribe of meaty flavoured toothpaste.
You can start by simply using your finger to rub over your dog's teeth and gums the first few times – perhaps after a good walk or play so they’re more inclined to lie there without too much fuss. Go at their pace. If they get agitated after a minute, let them off the hook. You want it to be a pleasant experience and the goal is to be able to do it regularly without upset. Lots of praise and play after the event will help the next time!
Once your dog is used to you feeling around their teeth with your finger, it's time to bring out the toothbrush. It may take a few tries and some coercion, but stay strong, stick with it and it'll become a fun bonding time for you and your dog.
Start at the back brushing softly in circular motions over the teeth and gum line and work to the front. 30 seconds a side for the top and the same on the bottom is a good guide for a regular clean.
For smaller mouths and teeth it can be really tricky and can take a few goes to get the knack, but you’ll feel it and hear it when you are brushing properly.
how often should you brush your dog's teeth?
The straight answer is every day. Or as often as you can. It is a big commitment but ultimately, it’s worth it and is an important part of helping your dog lead a longer, healthier and happier life.
are dog dental chews as effective as brushing?
Tough chew toys are a great supplement to oral health, but they are not an alternative to brushing your dog's teeth. When it comes to dog dental chews, we hesitate to advocate these since some of them are filled with some pretty dubious ingredients including sugar, so we avoid them all together. A raw bone or antler, in a suitable size, is a more natural and sustainable alternative and usually gets a tail wag approval. Just be sure to keep your eye on them in case of choking.
existing tartar on dogs teeth, fret not!
If brushing teeth is new to you, don't worry. We started when Smudge was an adult and her teeth are now nice and healthy. There are a couple of options to remove existing tartar from your dog's teeth. You could take a trip to the vet's for a thorough clean. This can be expensive and stressful for you and your pup particularly if it involves anaesthetic so it's something we try to avoid.
There are dental professionals who will clean your pet's teeth without anaesthetic and depending on how confident you feel, it might be something you can do at home. When we first started brushing Smudge's teeth, she had existing tartar and with a lot of patience, and over the course of short sessions, we removed the tartar, tooth by tooth with the help of a dental pick.