The Advisor People are great dog lovers and we felt we should hi-light that our dog’s oral hygiene is also very important as well as ours.
Did you know your dog needs to brush his teeth? According to the Royal Veterinary College a whopping 87% of dogs suffer from what is known as periodontal disease. This occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth allowing calculus to form. Calculus speeds up the rate at which plaque adheres to the teeth, eventually pushing down into the gum which can loosen teeth and allow dangerous bacteria to enter your dog’s bloodstream.
Some symptoms to look out for include:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Difficulty eating and picking up food
- Loose teeth
- Reddened or bleeding gums
- Blood on chew toys after play
- Dislike of being petted on the head
- Chewing to one side
- Strange noises when eating or yawning, or excessive sneezing and nasal discharge
Good oral hygiene for dogs will prevent him from developing these severe symptoms. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms, and by the time you notice anything is wrong irreversible damage could have been caused to your dog’s teeth.
Prevention is better than cure
Like humans visit the dentist regularly so should your canine friend. Regular vet check-ups will include inspecting the teeth and mouth for signs of decay and a thorough clean. Your vet will also advise on steps you can take to improve your dog’s oral health.
Ask your vet to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth with a special dog toothbrush (more on that lower down) and canine toothpaste. Don’t use human toothpaste as it can be poisonous to dogs. Once you know the technique, you can brush every day to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy.
Other preventative tips include feeding the right type of food for your dog and offering a variety of chew toys – including specially designed dental chews – to rub away the harmful bacteria.
We have also tried adding fresh breath drops to our dogs water, like Tropiclean’s fresh breath made easy available from Pets at Home.
It certainly makes those sloppy licks more bearable!!
Cleaning your dog’s teeth
The first few times you try to brush your dog’s teeth you should concentrate on simply getting them used to the idea. Let him try a little bit of toothpaste, so the taste is familiar (they tend to be flavoured with dog-friendly flavours such as chicken or liver) then squeeze a small smear onto the dog toothbrush.
Gently lift the lip and brush the outer surfaces of the teeth. Be gentle and slow – it may take a few attempts before your dog co-operates fully. Reach back and in as far as possible but don’t worry if you can’t get to all parts of the tooth – some is better than none!
Make it into a fun game and reward him every time he co-operates and soon you’ll be brushing experts! Although it is best to start brushing from the day you bring your puppy home (using puppy paste and a puppy brush) with a gentle approach most dogs, even quite elderly ones, will soon look forward to their new game.
How do I choose a good toothbrush for my dog?
If you haven’t gone shopping for a doggy toothbrush before you may be surprised at the choice. The best dog toothbrush is always going to be the one you can actually get your dog to accept, and you may find you need to try a few before you find the right one.
The fundamental choice is between a brush that looks fairly similar to a human toothbrush or a dog finger toothbrush. You can also opt for a bristly dog toothbrush which looks like a rubber cactus and allows your dog to brush his own teeth. Don’t forget to change them regularly to avoid a build-up of harmful bacteria.
Dog toothbrushes come in all different sizes – just like dogs themselves! Make sure you choose an appropriate size for your dog. Too big and you risk jabbing him in the mouth, putting him off having his teeth brushed. Too small and you could be there forever! Make sure the handle is long enough that you can reach the back teeth, but not so long that you find moving it around difficult.
Some dog toothbrushes are double-ended with different sized heads for different areas of the mouth, which may be useful for medium sized dogs. Multiple heads allow the whole tooth to be cleaned in one attempt, but require a little more co-operation from your dog to open his mouth wider.
A dog finger brush slips over your finger and allows you finer control over the brushing procedure. Some dogs may prefer this approach, although if you have a small dog, your finger may be uncomfortably big for their mouth. We have found this method successfully worked for a labrador.
Lintbells make microfibre pads which you wear in a similar way to a dog finger toothbrush. Some dogs may prefer the feel of the cloth rather than a traditional bristle brush.
Bristly dog toothbrushes are an innovative product that can either be used instead of brushing or as an extra level of dental care. Designed as a meat flavoured chew, they incorporate a reservoir for canine toothpaste. As the dog chews on the rubber, the toothpaste is squeezed out on the bristles which clean the teeth.
There are many other dental chews on the market. Chewing promotes good gum hygiene, and specially designed dental chews help remove plaque as the dog plays. Some, like Bristly, are designed to be an alternative to brushing while others are intended to be used alongside a regular dental routine.
Edible chews need to be eaten slowly to maximise the benefits so are not a good choice for dogs that gobble them down too quickly. Shaped rubber chews may be a better choice. Although it might be tempting if your dog goes through chews quickly you should avoid extremely hard chews and bones which can cause broken teeth. Fresh bones should be removed when they dry out too much. Pigs ears, a traditional dog chew, can increase the bacteria in the mouth so are also best avoided. Pets at home have a good selection of carefully chosen chews to offer your dog. Although, doggy dental chews are an easy option and often preferred by your dogs, do always look at the ingredients. Some dental chews can be high in fat and are not advisable as a regular option for overweight dogs!
Bristly, finger or chewable? Well, that depends on which suits you and your canine companion. Read some comparisons of different brands and don’t be disheartened if it takes you a few weeks to find the best solution. Cleaning your dog’s teeth is definitely worthwhile, not only to prevent them from suffering from any discomfort but also to spare you extortionate vets bills (few pet insurance plans will cover dental treatment).