Preventive Measures to Look After Your Dog’s Teeth
When it comes to caring for our canine companions teeth their oral hygiene and dental care is just as important as our own.
Just like humans, our dogs can fall victim to a number of dental conditions such as gingivitis, periodontitis and dental abscesses. It’s very common to see plaque and tartar build up in dogs, especially in those over 3 years of age. This build up usually signals the start of dental related diseases and the dreaded halitosis (bad breath) that accompanies them.
For our dog to undergo dental procedures such as tooth extraction or even a simple scale and polish, they require a full general anaesthetic. These are generally safe in veterinary practice but as with any procedure there are slight risks so you should try and avoid them unless absolutely necessary.
As humans, we have a very established routine of regular brushing, but it’s impossible for dogs to do this themselves. Many owners however are managing to do this regularly with their pooches. It’s true some dogs will run for cover as soon as they see a toothbrush but with gentle training and patience, even the most reluctant dog will usually tolerate their teeth being brushed. For the most uncooperative dogs you’ll be pleased to know that there are other options!
I’ve listed the most common ways owners can provide preventive dental care:
• Regular teeth brushing (this is the best and most effective
• Feeding a dental diet
• Dental toys and treats
• Water additives
• Dental rinses
• Dental supplements
I would be cautious with a lot of dental food, toys and treats as they often claim to have miraculous teeth cleaning ability but they aren’t always as effective as they make out. Most of them rely on the product rubbing against the tooth surface and cleaning plaque and tartar build up. If you are using such products and there is still a build-up on the teeth then I would say that the product isn’t doing the job it is meant to be doing.
The easiest products to use are the water additives or supplements which often just have to be added to food or water. Dental food itself is usually designed with a specific shaped kibble that is supposed to clean the teeth as the dog bites into it. Wet food doesn’t have any teeth cleaning action and if you are feeding a wet diet you should certainly be doing something to address your dog’s teeth cleaning needs.
So how do you get started with tooth brushing?
As with most things it is much easier to start these things from a young age. Desensitising with a non-electric toothbrush or a finger brush every day from puppy-hood makes it a lot easier to get your dog used to the concept of tooth brushing. Start by using food or some tasty treat on the brush to make the experience pleasant. As you build up to toothpaste make sure you use a doggy one, they are usually meat flavoured and are palatable for most dogs.
Just by brushing 2-3 times a week will make a marked difference to your dog’s dental hygiene and greatly reduce the risk of dental disease. Not all dogs will like it initially but with time and patience most will eventually come to tolerate it.
For those that don’t, there are a range of products on the market that you can use to help the build-up of plaque and tartar. Using a combination of products and getting your vet to show you how to do quick regular dental checks at home will help you to prevent disease, and help you act quickly if it should arise.
Paul Manktelow regularly appears in the media as one of the UKs leading veterinary surgeons. His accomplished career as a vet allows him to talk on a number of key animal subjects and he regularly provides valuable advice to pet owners across the UK. Appearing on TV shows such as Junior Vets, Animal Madhouse and This Morning, he also writes columns for the Times, Dogs Monthly and blogs on his popular website Vital Pet Health