Dental Care for your Dog

Alison Laurie-Chalmers, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Excellent dental care really is as essential for your dog as it is for us. Dental disease is sadly a very common health problem in dogs, which can be largely preventable if good, regular dental care and hygiene are started at a young age.

So what causes Dental Disease?

Just as with us humans, dental plaque is the main cause of Dental problems in dogs, leading to Dental disease. Plaque gradually builds up on teeth and as it builds up, the gums become inflamed and pushed back, exposing the roots of the teeth. This then can lead to infection in the gums and tooth roots and eventually your dog’s teeth can become loose and fall out.

Longstanding dental disease can create a launch pad for infections to travel via the blood stream to other parts of the body, including the heart, liver and kidneys. So dental disease can also cause other disease problems, which can potentially be very serious.

Gum disease is largely preventable with good, regular daily dental care. The priority is removing any plaque build-up and then keeping the teeth as clean as possible thereafter. If heavy plaque needs to be removed by dental scaling, then this can be done under a safe anaesthetic. Then good daily dental hygiene can be resumed.

In young dogs sometimes the primary, temporary teeth sometimes don’t fall out, so the adult permanent teeth then can become misaligned or crowded alongside these as they erupt. This can create pockets where food then accumulates and this can then lead to gum infections. Temporary deciduous teeth can be removed if they are causing problems. Also abnormal jaw development in certain breeds can lead to irregular growth and malalignment of their teeth.

Problems eating food or being picky about food, drooling, pawing at the mouth and bad breath can be the first signs of problems with your dog’s teeth. If you notice these symptoms then arrange for an appointment so that we can check out the cause as soon as possible.

So how can you avoid Dental problems in your Dog?

  • Just like with humans, dogs need to have the daily accumulation of dental plaque removed. This does mean that they need their own toothbrush and toothpaste. 
  • Daily brushing is recommended for this and don’t use human toothpaste, a dog friendly toothpaste should always be used.
  • Start brushing their teeth at the early puppy stage so that brushing becomes part of a normal daily routine.
  • At first, spend a few moments every day, just touching in and around your puppy’s mouth.
  • Progress to rubbing the outside surfaces of the teeth with your finger.
  • Next, cover your finger with a damp soft cloth and rub the teeth gently.
  • Once your puppy is comfortable with this, move onto a finger brush and then to a toothbrush with some puppy toothpaste
  • Always praise your dog when it’s all over with a "good boy" treat out of his allocated food allowance.

Special dental care diets can also help and sensible Dental chews can encourage the gnawing action required to remove plaque.

Checking your dog’s teeth is one of the things that your Vet or Vet Nurse will look at during any regular health checks and examinations.

The good news is that we can do things to help keep your dog’s teeth healthy. If a scale and polish is required and advised, then this can be safely done under a carefully monitored anaesthetic.

If you think your dog’s teeth may need some attention, please book an appointment with us for a Dental examination as soon as possible.