We teach our children to brush their teeth twice a day from an early age. Why? Because oral health is extremely important and is as essential to your dog’s health as it is our own.
Sadly, 85% of dogs have experienced dental problems by the age of three. Some issues can be minor, but others can be quite detrimental to your dog’s health. Periodontal Disease for instance is a serious bacterial infection of the gum, which can be irreversible, and can occur in dogs as young as 22 months old.
Getting into good habits
Try to make checking your dog’s mouth part of your daily routine. Many dental problems can occur gradually and go unseen until the issue is a real cause for concern so lifting his lips and checking his gums daily will enable you to identify any dental problems that are developing at a steady rate.
If you haven’t started the habit from a young age, your dog might find it a bit uncomfortable at first. Use positive praise and a treat or two to encourage them to allow you to look - those couple of minutes of discomfort on their part is far more preferable to dental issues down the line.
As with humans, daily brushing (just once a day is fine) is recommended. Use a special dog toothbrush and toothpaste – don’t be tempted to use human toothpaste as this can be toxic to dogs. Dog friendly toothpaste is more likely to be liver flavoured than mint too, ideal for your dog, not so tempting for us!
Regular brushing will stop the build-up of tartar, which in itself can cause inflammation and swelling and lead to gingivitis and gum disease.
Giving your dog dental chews and a suitable diet can also help to reduce plaque. Plaque is a sticky film that coats your dog’s teeth. Made up of bacteria, plaque begins to build up when the food your dog eats stays on his teeth. The longer it is left the more it grows. The more it grows, the more likely he’ll develop dental problems, which can easily be avoided with regular cleaning.
Ensure the dental chew that you give your dog is the right size so as to avoid choking. Dental chews also tend to be high in calories to be sure to adjust your dog’s intake of food accordingly to maintain healthy weight management.
How to brush your dog’s teeth
Begin with gently massaging your dog’s mouth area. Make sure you do this in a comfortable environment for him, with no distractions.
After a few days of doing this and once your dog appears comfortable with it, introduce a small amount of doggy toothpaste on your finger and let him lick it off.
Thereafter try massaging it into his teeth with your finger. You can buy dog specific finger toothbrushes, or you can opt for a dog specific toothbrush, either of which you can change to after a few days of using your finger.
Remember to never force your dog with this process, he may find it really uncomfortable initially, particularly if he is an older dog, so take your time and use lots of soothing words and praise – a reward or two won’t hurt either!
Signs of dental disease
It is not uncommon for dogs to mask dental issues. If you are regularly checking your dog’s mouth you should be able to identify any dental issues before they become a problem. That being said, here are some signs that your dog may be experiencing dental problems:
• Bad breath
• Sore mouth
• Difficulty eating
• Loose teeth or tooth loss
• Bleeding gums
• Pawing the mouth
• Yellow or brown tartar on the teeth
Some dogs will express their pain in certain ways too;
• Out of character aggression
• Objection to their mouth being handled
• Becoming less social
If you believe your dog is suffering from dental problems, or is experiencing a build-up of plaque, take them to the vet as soon as possible so they can be thoroughly checked.