Dental Care

Printer-friendly versionDental disease is extremely common in our pets, with nearly all dogs showing some signs of decay by four or five years of age. As our pets get older, the typical ‘dog breath’ can grow increasingly worse, creating a barrier between us and our canine friends. At the practice we spend a considerable amount of time removing dental scale and extracting damaged teeth from otherwise healthy dogs. The reason is simple – dogs do not brush their teeth!

Dental problems can be alleviated by several means, and as always, prevention is better than cure.

  Dry foods are more abrasive than canned meats and work by wiping plaque, tartar and staining from the tooth’s surface as the food is being eaten, mimicking the action of bones, skin and tough fibrous tissue in the diets of wild dogs. Some companies even produce diets specifically designed to keep teeth clean.

  Dental chews and bones are another method of removing plaque and tartar from the surface of dogs’ teeth. Chewing on bones massages the gums and promotes good blood flow to the live part of the teeth, whilst their fibrous nature scrapes bacteria from the teeth’s surface. A wide selection of dental chews and bones are commercially available, and negate the need to feed real bones, which may splinter or stick in the dogs’ intestines if swallowed.

  Brushing. Undoubtedly the best method of preventing decay is to brush your dog’s teeth. The best time to start is when your dog is young, but with patience and care, brushing can be started at any age. It is important that you use a specially designed animal tooth brush, as the layer of enamel on our pet’s teeth is thinner than that on our own, and can be damaged by hard brushes. Canine toothpaste is also widely available, which, in addition to not foaming, comes in a variety of meaty flavours, making the whole process more enjoyable for your dog.

Most dogs accept brushing very well if they are introduced to the procedure in a calm and patient way. The best way is as follows:

Step 1

Gently stroke the outside of your dog’s cheeks with your finger only (no brush) and slowly lift the lip for about 10 to 20 seconds. Reward, praise and treat at the end of the session.

Step 2 Repeat as above, and also place a small amount of toothpaste on the end of your finger and let your dog sample it.
Step 3 Repeat Step 2 but this time gently run your finger or finger toothbrush and a small amount of toothpaste over your pet’s teeth for 30 – 45 seconds. Reward with a treat and praise.
Step 4 Repeat Step 3 adding 15 seconds time to running your finger or finger toothbrush over your dog’s teeth. Always reward with a treat and praise.
Step 5 If all is going well run your finger over the teeth for 30 seconds and then gently insert the toothbrush and again run over the teeth for 30 seconds.
Step 6 Repeat as Step 5 and increase the time by 30 seconds.
Step 7 By this time you should be aiming to spend at least one minute on each side of the mouth.

If you would like any further advice about dental care and oral hygiene for your dog, please feel free to pop into the practice. We sell a variety of toothpastes, finger toothbrushes and toothbrushes, and are happy to advise on their use. The nurse’s clinics, which are run free of charge, provide an ideal opportunity to practice the use of all of these products and discuss all aspect of dental care.