Health | 1 Min Read

Dr Lisa's doggy dental guide

Your dog’s teeth and gums can tell you a lot about their health and just like us, they need dental prophylaxis to prevent illness and decay.

Unfortunately dental and periodontal disease is extremely common in our dogs with 80% experiencing some level of dental/periodontal disease by just three years old. Regular teeth cleaning is an important part of their healthcare and can improve their quality of life. Starting brushing as a puppy is the best way to prevent dental disease in your dog. But never fear, you can introduce brushing to adult dogs too!

Your first port of call is to see your local vet for a thorough oral examination. Your vet will be able to determine the overall health of your dog’s teeth and gums. From there, a deep clean under general anaesthesia may be suggested, as well as modifications to their diet. After a professional dental clean, it’s best to begin daily teeth brushing to reduce plaque. If plaque is not removed, it can turn into a hard material called tartar. Remember that neither brushing or chews will remove this hardened tartar on the teeth - only a clean with your vet can eliminate this calcified material, which is why it’s best to prevent that build up of plaque in the first place. 

Teeth Brushing 101

By far the best way to clean your dog’s teeth is to brush them with a suitable toothbrush and water. Soft children’s toothbrushes are very effective or alternatively, you can find a pet toothbrush with a handle or a finger brush. Toothpaste is not usually necessary as it’s the physical brushing that removes the plaque, rather than the toothpaste. There are pet toothpastes available with antibacterial additives and flavours to make brushing more appealing to your dog. Don’t ever use human toothpaste on your pets: human toothpastes contain various chemicals that can cause illness in dogs, especially the sweetener xylitol, which is extremely toxic and can cause death. 

Technique

  1. Gently raise your dog's lips on one side of their mouth and start with the large canine teeth where plaque accumulates most quickly. 
  2. Brush gently in a similar way to brushing your own teeth. Work on small areas at a time, taking regular breaks for treats if needed.
  3. Gradually work up to brushing all of the teeth.
  4. Spend approx 30 seconds on either side.
  5. Finish with lots of praise and a treat

Tips for success

  • If there is tartar, your vet will need to perform a scale and polish: Begin brushing afterwards - this will ensure you have a clean slate to reduce plaque build up. Remember that brushing and dental chews will NOT remove tartar.
  • Praise and positive reinforcement: keeping these sessions short, make sure you’re praising them equally throughout the experience
  • Start when they are puppies: puppies can be trained to be comfortable with dental care from a young age. Get them used to having their mouth touched and examined.
  • Repetition repetition repetition: yes, repetition is key. Keep the initial sessions short and stress free. It will take time for your dog to get used to it.
  • Make it tasty if needed: Most dogs tolerate brushing with just water, but if you are having trouble, try a small amount of a flavoured dog toothpaste. 
  • Brush teeth after exercise and a meal: your dog will be more likely to be relaxed when they have exercised and aren’t hungry. Pick a comfy spot where your dog likes to lounge around - it’s much easier to brush their teeth while they lie down. 
  • If in doubt, speak to your vet: if you find any abnormalities in your dog’s mouth or you are unsure of the correct brushing technique, then visit your vet for advice.
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