Dental care for dogs

Looking after our dog’s teeth is just as important as looking after our own. Giving their teeth a good brush a few times a week will help keep their mouth healthy.

Why should I clean my dog’s teeth?

Just like us, dogs can get rotten teeth and gum problems. Brushing your dog’s teeth is the best way to keep their mouth healthy.

If your dog’s teeth aren’t kept clean they could become covered with plaque. This is a type of bacteria that lives in your dog’s mouth. These bacteria give off a type of acid which eats into the surface of your dog’s teeth. Over time, this can cause painful cavities, gum problems and might mean that your dog loses some of their teeth.

How do I clean my dog’s teeth?

You can buy special toothbrushes and toothpaste for your dog. It’s important to use pet toothpaste as it is safe for your dog to swallow.

It’s a good idea to start brushing your dog’s teeth when they’re young. They quickly get used to it as part of their routine. It’s never too late to start, though, and older dogs will soon get used to a good scrub!

Take things slowly and get them used to having their teeth cleaned over a few weeks:

  • Let them taste their new dog-safe toothpaste so they think of brushing their teeth as a treat, not a chore.
  • Get them used to having their mouth touched. You can do this by gently rubbing a soft cloth along their gums.
  • Gradually move on to using a brush that fits over your finger. This will get your dog used to the feeling of their teeth being brushed.
  • When your dog’s comfortable and ready, use a proper dog toothbrush. The longer handle will help you reach all of their teeth.

Watch our video to see these tips in action:

Other ways to keep your dog’s teeth healthy

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the best way to keep their teeth clean and healthy. There are some other things you can do in between brushes to help maintain a healthy mouth:

  • You can buy toys that are designed to clean your dog’s teeth as they chew on them.
  • Dental chews and specialist foods can also help to keep your dog’s mouth healthy. Be careful not to feed your dog too many of these as it could make them overweight.
  • Don’t feed them too many sugary treats as this can cause more bacteria to build up on your dog’s teeth.
  • Don’t feed your dog bones as these can damage your dog’s teeth. Bones can also break into splinters which can damage their gums and throat.

Bad breath

Have you noticed your dog’s breath is a bit smellier than usual? It might be that they need introducing to a regular tooth brushing routine. However, there are few health issues that might cause bad breath too:

  • Dental disease. If your dog is struggling with rotten teeth or gum infections, brushing won’t help and can cause them pain. Your dog will need a trip to the vet to get checked out. Your vet will examine your dog’s mouth and advise you about any treatment that might be needed.
  • Kidney disease. Your dog’s kidneys clean their blood and filter out waste into their urine. If their kidneys aren’t working properly it can make their breath smell like ammonia (similar to the smell of wee).
  • Diabetes. If your dog has diabetes their breath might start smelling sweet or fruity. This is because their body is struggling to control how much sugar in their blood.
  • Something stuck in their mouth. If your dog has something stuck in their teeth or gums, bacteria can build up and cause a bad smell.
  • Mouth tumour. This is very rare but it’s important not to ignore any signs like bad breath, excessive drooling or difficulty chewing.

It is important to get these health issues checked out. Once any underlying problems have been ruled out by your vet, you might want to start brushing to try and improve your dog’s breath.

Signs your dog has dental disease

If your dog has serious problems with their teeth they’ll need to be seen by their vet – brushing alone won’t solve the painful problem.

Dental disease can be very painful for your dog and it can have a big impact on how much they enjoy life. Warning signs that your dog had a serious problem are:

  • bad breath (all the time, not just after meals)
  • yellow/brown coloured teeth
  • red or bleeding gums
  • difficulty eating or not wanting to eat
  • dropping food from their mouth
  • weight loss
  • rubbing their face
  • dribbling

If your dog shows any of these signs, speak to your vet. They’ll be able to talk to you about the best treatment for your dog and how you can help them start to feel better.

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