How often do you clean your dog’s teeth? Every day? Every week?
Or are you part of the 66% of dog owners who don’t brush them at all?
March 20th is World Oral Health Day and a reminder that it’s as important to maintain our dog’s oral hygiene as it is our own.
Along with the vet team at Animed Direct, I carried out a survey into the hygiene habits of pet owners and the results were alarming.
- Two-fifths said their dog had smelly breath
- Of those who did brush, only nine per cent said they did it every day
- 11 per cent brushed weekly, and four per cent each month
- Yet 65 per cent said they thought it was important to clean their teeth
- Worryingly 31 per cent of dogs didn’t have yearly dental check ups
- Only one in seven dogs had their teeth professionally cleaned
The message from vet Shona Scott is that this must change
She said: “Dog owners don’t realise what a tremendous problem poor oral hygiene is. A very high percentage of dogs have problems by the age of three.
“As a vet I have seen some awful teeth and I have urged owners to take greater care of their dog’s oral hygiene and found they simply shrug and say, ‘Well they’re eating so there’s nothing wrong.’
“But having dirty, decayed, infected or broken teeth is painful for dogs. They can’t tell us they’re in pain and they will continue to eat, often using one side of the mouth to avoid tender areas.
“It can lead to infection in other parts of the body, as well as infection in the mouth, in the soft tissue around the teeth and the bone supporting the teeth in the jaw.
“Dogs who suffer this need extensive, painful and often costly surgery, and in the case of a senior dog, this could meet putting them under anaesthetic which can bring other risks too.”
As a nation of dog lovers, I believe we DO want to be responsible for keeping pets healthy
For many owners, not knowing why it’s important to clean teeth, or knowing what to do is what stands in the way.
It’s never too late to start caring for their teeth, so here, Shona explains the steps owners can take, and highlights some products that have been approved by vets that can help.
Start your dog’s dental regime straight away
“If your dog comes to you as a puppy, they will be learning all kinds of new things so it’s an ideal time to start.
“With a rescue dog, again, if you start when they arrive, it’s something that you can build into their new routine.
“Whatever their age, start slowly. First, use your finger to rub the paste around the dog’s mouth. Then move to a finger brush, then to a toothbrush.
“I have seen an owner use an electric toothbrush on a dog who was familiarised with it.
“Stop if they become agitated and give them a reward and make a fuss of them so they view teeth cleaning as a positive experience.”
Have their teeth checked by your vet
“Dogs should have their teeth examined when they go for their annual vaccinations,” explains Shona.
“If your dog has had a dental procedure or a problem with their teeth, it should be every six months.”
If your vet hasn’t checked your dog’s teeth ensure you ask for this at your next visit.
Brush their teeth as often as you can
Owners who are meticulous about their pet’s health can brush their teeth every day.
Shona said: “In an ideal world, every dog owner would do this. But most owners feel they don’t have the time so my advice is to try to do it as often as possible.”
A wide range of toothbrushes from finger brushes to start with to regular brushes are available and cost as little as £3.
The video below shows just how easy it is to clean a dog’s teeth once they are familiar with the process.
Find a toothpaste or gel that protects agains tartar
There are lots of toothpastes on the market, many of which are flavoured with meat to make them more appealing to dogs.
Shona says: “The most important thing is the action of brushing the teeth and taking the plaque away, leaving the mouth feeling clean and fresh.
“I would advise owners use a gel or paste that protects against tartar like Dentisept which gives 24 hour protection.
“Look for a product that is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council and you can see a list at www.vohc.org
“There is also the British Veterinary Dental Association so look out for this on labels if you’re out shopping for products.”
Dentisept toothpaste can be used for dogs and cats and binds to the enamel of their teeth, releasing antiseptic properties over 24 hours.
This protects hypersensitive gums from irritations and stimulates recovery. It has a vanilla aroma, meaning pets find it more palatable.
Use treats and/or food to protect teeth
“Dental chews and food have a place in your pet’s hygiene routine and can work well alongside brushing but I would urge owners not to use them as an alternative,” says Shona.
Hills Prescription Diet Dental T/D is VOHC approved and can help maintain oral health.
If you’re concerned about your pet, then ask vet if they think it might be helpful.
They also offer the same prescription diet for cats, which reduces the build up of tartar, stains and plaque and maintains oral health.
VeggieDent Chews cost from £4.70 for a pack of 15 and are approved by the VOHC. Regular use can help keep teeth and gums healthy.
A study last year found a 40% reduction in plaque and a 38% reduction in tartar in dogs who used ProDen PlaqueOff Bites, which are VOHC approved.
Try additives in your pet’s water
Aquadent is an anti plaque solution that can be added to your pet’s water to limit the build up of plaque and tartar.
Use a toy that helps clean teeth
I don’t think I’ve ever met a dog that doesn’t like a Kong and they have a choice of a dental stick, floss rope and a dental Kong.
The Kong Stick has ridges on it that clean your dog’s back teeth, scraping plaque away from the teeth and gumline as they chew.
The Kong Floss Rope is a toy with chew clean grooves that clean the teeth and comes on a tug rope. You can also put toothpaste in the grooves.
The Kong Dental Toy has chew clean grooves which clean teeth and gums as your dog chews and, like a regular Kong, there’s a hollow centre that can be filled with treats.
And finally, put yourself in your dog’s shoes…
It’s frustrating for vets when they try to explain the importance of cleaning pet’s teeth, only for their advice to be dismissed.
Our dogs are more humanised than ever. We buy them clothes, invest in pet sitters, feed them human grade food and shower them with love and affection.
But something so simple as taking a few moments each day to clean their teeth feels like a chore and it shouldn’t.
“Having a broken tooth for a dog is like having a broken leg,” says Shona. “It needs surgery, an anaesthetic and time for the dog to recover.
“I’d urge owners to think about how they feel when they have toothache and realise their dog can feel the same but can’t tell them.
“Think about how horrid it feels if you don’t brush your teeth for a day. Some dogs don’t have theirs done for years!
“It might feel like a hassle, but cleaning your teeth is about being kind and showing your dog you truly care about their health.”
- This post is sponsored by Animed Direct, an online retailer providing discounted medication, food, treats and accessories. All the products mentioned in this post can be found at www.animeddirect.co.uk
If you found the advice in this article helpful, you might like Canine Arthritis, six things owners need to know or Five ways to help your dog lose weight – and keep yourself trim too!