Looking after your dog’s teeth and gums is paramount to its overall health
By Daniella Dos Santos (Ex-Senior Vice President of the British Veterinary Association)
Dogs go through “teething” too!
Dogs, like their owners, have two sets of teeth throughout their lives. Their baby teeth, or deciduous teeth, start to come through at about three to four weeks of age, and start to be replaced with permanent, or adult teeth from about four months old. You often don’t see the baby teeth when they fall out, but you may notice that your puppy goes through a period of “bad breath” when teething. In some dogs, the deciduous canines do not fall out, which can lead to tartar build-up between the deciduous and permanent tooth, teeth being forced into abnormal and potentially painful positions, or problems with the adult teeth in the long term. If you notice your dog has retained deciduous teeth, speak to your vet.
Brushing your dog’s teeth daily is the best way to prevent dental disease in your dog. Start getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed as early as possible, and always use a special dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste. It can take time to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed, so start with them getting comfortable with having their cheek stroked, working towards them being comfortable with your hand being in their mouth. It is often easier to then move onto using toothpaste on your finger, before working your way up to using a brush.
Care with dental chews and toys
Toys and chews will not replace tooth brushing when it comes to keeping your dog’s teeth healthy, and in fact, there are some things you should be cautious of. Some edible dental chews are very high in calories, and some non-edible chews can be too hard, alongside items such as reindeer antlers and stones, which can damage and fracture teeth. Make sure you stick to dental-safe chews and toys.
Signs of dental disease
There are various signs of dental disease to look out for. Gingivitis is swelling and inflammation of the gum, often seen as a red line where the gum meets the tooth, and tartar, a hard yellow/brown covering of parts of the tooth, are both signs of dental disease. If you notice any of these, bleeding from your dog’s mouth, or your dog is having trouble eating, contact your vet.
Anaesthesia free cleaning is not good for your dog
Although pictures of a dog’s mouth who has undergone anaesthesia free dental cleaning look impressive, the truth is that whilst it makes the teeth look “clean”, it is not effective at tackling dental disease. It is important when cleaning teeth the areas under the gum, called the sub-gingival areas, are properly examined and cleaned, and this is simply not possible in a conscious dog. A dental procedure carried out by a veterinary surgeon with the patient under anaesthesia will allow a full oral examination, and cleaning and probing of all areas, including the sub-gingival space. Anaesthesia free cleaning is not in the best health or welfare interests of the patient, and if you have any concerns about your dog’s teeth, speak to your vet.