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How to Keep Your Dog's Teeth Healthy

dog with toothbrush

If you are all concerned about your pet's teeth do not hesitate to contact us on 01254 53622.

What causes dental problems in dogs?

Dogs do not suffer from dental caries as we do. Instead plaque buildup is the cause of most doggy tooth problems. Plaque begins to form on the teeth from birth. By 3 years of age most dogs have signs of the plaque changing to hard brown calcified scale. This scale can be seen along the edge of the gum line. This scale contains bacteria which causes the edge of the gum to become inflamed and red. More scale forms and gradually under-runs the inflamed gum leading to infection, eventually forming pockets deep into the tooth socket which results in loosening of the tooth. A bad smell on the breath may be the first sign of dental disease, as dogs tend not to show pain in the mouth until the situation is well advanced. In the same way a person may have quite severe dental pain but you wouldn't know unless they told you. Your dog can't tell you. See "dental problems of dogs & cats" for photos of the various stages of dental disease.

How to reduce dental problems

Dry food helps to reduce plaque buildup on the teeth. Feed a good quality complete dry food. Some modern dry foods are formulated to clean your dog's teeth while they are eating. Foods such as Hill's Vet Essentials does this. If the food you have chosen has this beneficial effect it usually describes it on the packet. Even better, if your dog has or has had dental problems use a food such as Hill's t/d as part of the diet (Hill's t/d actively removes plaque).

Encourage chewing. Dog toys such as nylabones and kongs help to keep your dogs teeth clean. Tough foods such as hide chews and more recently, treats such as dentastix help to clean your dog's teeth while they chew them. Bones can help but choose large uncooked ones. Bones are not without risk though, as chewing bones can sometimes break teeth.

Brush your dog's teeth using an enzymatic toothpaste every day. Do not try and brush your dog's entire mouth the first time, as he or she may not like it. Start by brushing just one tooth the first day and give a treat afterwards. Each day do a little more followed by a treat. Eventually your dog should allow you to brush all it's teeth and look forward to it. You only need to brush the outside of your dogs teeth, the inside of the teeth hardly ever go wrong, they are in effect self cleaning, and are very hard to brush effectively.

Regular dental check-up with our nurse or vet.

An annual check-up (we always check your pet's teeth at vaccination) with one of our vets will allow trouble to be spotted early and appropriate action taken. Most dogs are fine until about 3 years of age. As soon as scale becomes a problem the teeth should be descaled and polished. If your dog does not have regular vaccinations annually (it is important to have your pet vaccinated annually) it is important to make an appointment with the vet for an annual health check.

What happens if my dog needs dental treatment?

We will arrange for your dog to come in on a day of your choice to have it's teeth cleaned and any bad teeth removed. Your dog will arrive at the surgery in the morning and be left with us. When it is time a relaxing sedative will be given. Once your dog is relaxed, an anaesthetic agent is administered, usually propofol and isoflurane. An anti-inflammatory/painkiller (analgesic) is given to prevent any discomfort on recovery. Then we attend to any dental problems. We remove all hard scale with an ultrasonic descaler, and polish the enamel to reduce plaque formation in the future. We do all we can to preserve the teeth, but any loose, or decayed teeth will be removed. Antibiotics to treat any infections will be used when necessary. Older dogs or those with problems (such as kidney disease) or active infection may need intravenous fluid therapy during the procedure. It doesn't take very long. We need your dog at the surgery for just a few hours. Admission takes place between 8.30am to 9.00am and patients are normally discharged between 3.00pm to 5.30pm. (see also our anaesthetic standard).

A routine blood test is recommended before every anaesthetic to check for any hidden problems . Our in-house laboratory gives us the results within the hour.

Other minor medical problems such as cysts, warts or small growths can be dealt with at the same time.

John Davies, Daisy Street Vets, Blackburn, April 2015

David30 years ago..... (David Higginson MRCVS remembers)

Dental care was non-existent. Most dogs had awful smelly mouths by the time they were 5 or 6 yrs old. No-one expected a older dog to have a pleasant mouth! Unlike nowadays anaesthetics were quite risky for older dogs so dental care consisted of waiting till there were lots of bad teeth then extracting 15 or 20 teeth at one go. Not surprisingly many dogs did well once all that infection had been removed! We now know that with regular dental de-scale and polishing we can maintain a healthy mouth throughout life for most dogs.

Page updated 30th Jan 2017, 13:13
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