Updated: Apr 10, 2022
One of the most common concerns from owners is that their dog has stinky breath! I hear all too often ' wee Marley loves to snuggle up to me in bed at night but his breath is horrific and keeps me up'. People can think that by some miracle their dogs teeth will take care of themselves, this is most definatly not the case. Good dental care is just as important in dogs as it is for ourselves.....the only difference is we need to give our furry friends a helping hand with that dental care.
Plaque and tartar
Similar to us dogs have plaque build up on their teeth where bacteria and food is sitting and as this accumulates it forms tartar. This tartar forms initially at the gum line and causes the gums to become inflamed (gingivitis) which then leads to gum recession and gum disease and the tooth becomes loose. This photo shows how bad it can get and this wee guys teeth were so bad the majority needed surgically removed under a general anaesthetic.
If gum disease is left untreated the tooth begins to separate from the gum and the gum recedes exposing the root of the tooth. Once tartar forms spaces under the teeth this is irreversible and the tooth needs extracted as will start to cause discomfort. Sometimes bacteria can multiply in this area and form an abscess, this often presents as a painful soft swelling which can often be noticed externally and usually requires veterinary attention.
Signs your little pal is developing gum disease includes
Difficulty eating or dropping food
Red or swollen gums
Swollen face or rubbing face
Certain breeds of dog are far more prone to developing dental disease. This is often due to the shape and size of the dogs mouth. Small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers, Whippets, Pugs, Shih Tzus have cramped, narrow or compressed mouths which means the build up of tartar is far more likely.
How to prevent dental disease
Start brushing your dogs teeth daily: So often my clients will tell me they brush their dogs teeth and on further questioning they explain that its actually just once a week or the odd time they remember or I think my husband does it etc etc...... This just will not do, tooth brushing needs to be a daily activity to reap the benefits.
Invest in some dog tooth paste and a human toothbrush is fine, you can also get finger brushes which may be a bit easier in the smaller dogs. Start the daily brushing from puppy hood so your wee one becomes adjusted to it and knows its part of the daily routine.
Diet: Your dogs diet can be an important part of dental hygiene, particularly in the smaller breeds. Dry food is generally better for the teeth as chewing the kibble helps rub plaque off their teeth and as they chew more saliva builds up which helps protect the teeth. Wet food tends to stick around the teeth allowing bacteria and plaque to form. There are special dental diets available with larger kibble involving more chewing. such as Hills T/D.
Dental toys and treats: The idea of these is to cause friction on the tooth surface and rub off the plaque and increase protective saliva.The treats can contain ingredients to also help freshen breath. A lot of owners I have met rely on dental chews alone, while they are a great help they should be used along side daily brushing.
Visit to your vet: Your vet should have a look at your dogs teeth every year at their booster and keep you informed of their condition. Despite your best efforts there may be evidence of tartar and the gum becoming inflamed, this is a great time to book in for a scale and polish. Having the vet clean your pets teeth requires a general anaesthetic but it is well worth it to prevent future dental problems and tooth loss. Generally the smaller guys require more vigorous dental care and I often will carry out a scale and polish on the small dogs with overcrowded mouths every few years to help prevent tooth loss as they age. Always get information from your vet to discuss the suitability of your dog to go under general anaesthetic.
So a tip for me going forward is be proactive with your furry friends dental care. prevention is better than cure!! Get into a dental routine from puppyhood and ask your vet to check their teeth each time you are in for a visit. Keeping on top of the plaque and tartar with regular brushing is far better and money saving than you dog needing a big dental like a poor soul I saw last week------------------------->
This is what happens when no one takes care their teeth and as well as your poor pooch going through a big procedure the cost isn't much fun for the owner either!