We all love to have a sparkling, shining smile. Many of us, myself included, spend our teenage years nervously sporting a metal-clad grin as a result of wearing braces. Some people will even spend thousands of pounds transforming their smile through cosmetic procedures, such as veneers.
But what about your pets? Do you pay as much attention to your dog’s teeth as you do your own? If not, don’t worry! This blog post will walk you through how to take care of your dog’s teeth including what healthy dog teeth look like, how to spot gum disease and how to brush their teeth. #
Last year, my dalmatian was diagnosed and treated for an abscess. It turns out this was most likely caused by his fondness of eating small stones. The whole experience was a huge learning curve for me that resulted in us ramping up his oral care routine and (of course!) monitoring him when he’s digging in the garden to stop any stone-crunching.
To help you minimise the risk of your dog suffering with poor oral health, I’ll be sharing advice on dog dental care, drawing from my own personal experiences as a proud dog-mum and research conducted by Pedigree.
Disclaimer: Please note that this post has been created in conjunction with Pedigree as part of an Ad campaign, however all words and thoughts remain that of my own. If you have any questions, please let me know!
What do healthy dog teeth and oral care look like?
Before learning how to take care of your dog’s teeth, it’s important to understand what healthy dog teeth and oral care actually look like. Dogs don’t just use their teeth for eating food. Instead, your dog will likely use their teeth for grooming, carrying things, playing and so much more! Based on this information alone, looking after your dogs teeth is super important.
Just like us, dogs will have 2 sets of teeth in their lifetime. In puppyhood, dogs will have 28 baby teeth. Although, a slight difference between humans and dogs is that, unlike us, puppies will swallow most of their baby teeth as they lose them to make room for adult teeth. Pretty interesting fact, right? Once their adult teeth have all come through, your dog will have 42 adult teeth.
Healthy teeth make for a healthy mouth so taking care of your dog’s teeth should be a priority. Healthy teeth and gums should be free from plaque. The colour of your dog’s gums and tongue depends completely on the breed so be sure to check what a healthy colour is for your dog. Once you know what a healthy mouth looks like, regularly keep tabs on your dog’s teeth and oral health to make sure everything is fine.
It’s also worth knowing that most basic pet insurance plans don’t cover dental surgery, so it’s worth checking your pet insurance and seeing if you can get dog insurance that includes oral care. When Roley suffered with his abscess and had to undergo surgery to remove the affected tooth, it wasn’t covered by his insurance. That being said, our dog’s health is a number one priority to us so we covered the costs without a second thought to ensure he was back to full-health as quickly as possible! Following his operation, we also made changes to his oral care routine to make sure he has healthy teeth going forward.
How to take care of your dog’s teeth
There’s a few things I do to help keep Roley and Didier’s teeth in sparkling condition. By following these simple steps you can build up a healthy daily oral routine and ensure your dog’s teeth are in tip-top shape:
Brush your dog’s teeth
Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is one of the easiest and most important ways to take care of their oral health. You should aim to brush your dog’s teeth once a day to help prevent plaque build-up. Even if your pet is old, it’s better to start brushing their teeth now, rather than not at all.
When brushing your dog’s teeth, be sure to use a pet toothpaste… not your favourite minty-fresh family product. Didier and Roley love the taste of their pet toothpaste. As a result, they get super-excited when it comes to toothbrushing time which makes the job of keeping their teeth clean a lot easier… and fun!
If you’re only just introducing your dog to toothbrushing, start slow and reward them for good behaviour to build positive association. It’s best to brush their teeth in a quiet place, free from distraction. Another good tip is to brush their teeth at the same time everyday to help establish a routine. Start by introducing your dog to pet toothpaste and letting them taste a small amount on theirown. Once they’re used to the toothpaste, do the same with the toothbrush. Let your dog explore and get used to the feel of the toothbrush in and around their mouth.
When brushing your dog’s teeth, gently hold their muzzle to stop them from trying to chew. Start by brushing their canine teeth at the side before moving along to the canine teeth on the other side. Your dog’s incisor teeth at the front of their mouth are in the most sensitive area, so it’s advised not to start here. After brushing their canine teeth move further backwards to clean their molars and then, finally, clean their incisors. Remember to be mindful when brushing your dog’s teeth – slowly and gradually wins the race.
Give your dog safe chew toys and treats
Finding safe chew toys for your dog can be a challenge. Especially if your dog is an aggressive chewer like my dalmatian, Roley. Due to Roley being a notorious chewer, I’m always really careful when it comes to giving my dogs toys. The second a toy starts to get damaged, it’s immediately confiscated. I also try to avoid giving my dogs any hard or abrasive toys that could damage their teeth and gums.
Plastic and nylon toys, sticks, stones, and bones can all be dangerous for your dog to chew. When taking Roley for an oral check-up at the vets, we found out that he’s a bit of a secret stone grinder. Chewing stones can wear down the enamel on your dog’s teeth, causing them discomfort and putting them at higher risk of dental problems. Now that we are aware of this habit, we keep a close eye on our dogs whenever they’re in the garden to make sure they aren’t chewing stones.
Instead of allowing your dog to chew things that could be potentially dangerous to them, look for special toys that are safe to chew and teach your dog to ‘drop’ if they do try to get their mouth around something they shouldn’t. Most importantly, don’t leave them unattended with chew toys.
As well as safe chew toys, dog dental treats like Pedigree DentaFlex are a great way to support your dog’s oral health. These are specially designed to help keep plaque and tartar build-up to a minimum. However, they shouldn’t be used to replace regular teeth cleaning, so make sure you’re still regularly brushing your furry friend’s teeth.
Roley has a sensitive stomach, and being a dalmatian means he also needs to have a low-purine diet. As a result, I’m overly cautious about giving my dogs treats. Other than their carefully chosen dog food, I won’t ever feed them titbits and they rarely get treats. However, I will occasionally give them dentasticks, as long as I’ve read through the ingredients and made sure I’m happy with their contents. Thankfully, Pedigree DentaFlex are low in fat and free from artificial flavours, colours and added sugars, making them a healthier, safer choice for my sensitive pup.
Take your dog for oral check-ups
Another way to take care of your dog’s teeth and gums is to book them in for an oral health examination with their vet. You should aim to do this at least once a year. Your vet can help you spot any changes or potential concerns and they’ll also provide advice on how to best take care of your dog’s teeth. If they feel your dog’s teeth need a thorough clean, they can arrange a scale and polish to help get their mouth gleaming again.
How to spot gum disease and other oral health problems
When it comes to dog dental care, gum disease is one of the most common issues. Gum disease can be really painful for dogs, so it’s important to make sure they aren’t at risk of developing it. Gum disease in dogs begins when they have plaque or tartar buildup on their teeth. That’s why it’s crucial you have a proper oral routine in place that focuses on keeping plaque at bay.
As with humans, bad breath and bleeding gums are two of the main signs of gum disease in dogs. Others include:
- Bad breath – your dog shouldn’t have bad breath. If they do have bad breath, this is a sign that they have an underlying gum issue. The earlier you notice they have bad breath, the sooner you can take action.
- Bleeding gums – if your dog’s gums look red and inflamed or bleed when they chew things, this is also a sign of poor gum health.
- Behaviour – if your dog is acting more subdued than usual, reluctant to having their head and face touched, or they aren’t interested in their food, these can all indicate gum disease.
Check your dog’s teeth and gums weekly for the above signs. If you notice anything unusual, get them booked in for an oral check-up so they can get dental treatment, if needed.
By being mindful and following the above advice, you can help keep your dog’s gums, teeth, and mouth healthy. It’s really important to do regular checks as, unfortunately, your dog can’t tell you when they’re in pain or if they’re suffering with their oral health. Therefore, it’s your responsibility as a dog owner to keep their oral health in the best condition possible. Obviously I’m not an expert, I’m just another doting dog-mum. So, if you’re worried about your dog’s oral health, please check in with a vet and ask them for their opinion on how best to take care of your dog’s teeth.