Dog Health

Dental care for dogs: The dos and don’ts

The dos and don’ts

Your dog’s teeth are to them, what our hands are to us - they use them to hold things, throw things, catch things and break things apart. But as clever as your pooch may be, they unfortunately can’t brush their own teeth, so they’re reliant on you to help keep their oral health in tip top form. 

Continue reading our guide on dental care for dogs to learn how you can best look after your dog’s teeth and gums, things to avoid doing, and the signs to look out for that your dog could be suffering from gum disease. 

Why it’s important to look after your dog’s teeth

Dental care for dogs is about more than just their teeth and gums, as their oral health can be crucial to their overall wellbeing. Not only can poor dental hygiene cause stinky breath, but it can allow for plaque and tartar to build up on your dog’s teeth, and the structures supporting their teeth to become damaged or infected. If left, these symptoms could lead to tooth loss which can be painful for your dog and have knock-on effects on things such as eating, sleeping and their mood. In serious cases, the bacteria found in plaque can enter the bloodstream, causing issues with internal organs such as their kidneys and heart. So, when you look after your dog’s oral health, you look after them!

Things you should do

As a dog owner, there are a few things you can do to keep your pooch’s teeth and gums healthy, helping to prevent gum disease and other related issues. Check out some of our dog dental care tips below:

Clean your dog’s teeth daily

Just like we have our own tooth brushing routine, your dog needs one too. Ideally you should clean a dog’s teeth every day, but if this isn’t realistic, four times a week is a good frequency to aim for to avoid tartar taking hold. It’s not always the easiest task, but the more you do it, the more your pooch will get used to it. Choose a time when your dog is relaxed and take it slowly. Make sure you reward them with a treat afterwards to keep it a positive experience and reinforce their good behaviour. Check out our article on how to clean a dog’s teeth for step-by-step tips.

Take your dog for regular dental check-ups with the vet

Even when you’re brushing your dog’s teeth regularly, they can still need a professional dental clean at the vets from time to time, just like us!. While cleaning a dog’s teeth at home can help to remove surface plaque, a professional veterinary dental clean is the most thorough way to remove tartar from the teeth, as well as under the gum line. When your vet cleans a dog’s teeth they put the dog under anaesthesia to complete the process, using special tools to polish the teeth and remove plaque and tartar from underneath the gums, where a normal brushing can’t reach. Unlike humans, dogs don’t tend to lie still when asked and this is why it is necessary for the dog to have a general anaesthetic so that the treatment can be performed safely. Never allow groomers to clean your dog’s teeth, it is a highly specialised job that needs to be done in the safety of the veterinary practice.

Give them dog dental chews

Dogs love treats, so giving them dog dental chews such as PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX®, is a great way to look after their teeth and gums in a way they’ll enjoy. Intended to complement a tooth brushing routine (rather than replace it), these kinds of treats are made specifically to help remove plaque build-up and often contain ingredients that freshen breath. Some dog dental chews (such as PEDIGREE® DENTASTIX® DAILY and DENTASTIX® FRESH) are designed to be given to your pooch daily, while others (like DENTASTIX® ADVANCED) can be given on a twice weekly basis for a deeper, more effective tooth clean. They don’t just taste good, they do good!

Be aware of any signs of gum disease

Gum disease is very common among dogs, affecting 80% of dogs over the age of three (Kortegaard et al., 2008).If left untreated, it can be painful and impact other areas of your dog’s health, so it’s important to know what to look out for. Dogs won’t always stop eating when they’re in pain, so you should regularly check their mouth for anything abnormal. Bad breath is one of the main giveaways that something isn’t right, alongside symptoms including plaque and tartar build-up; red, inflamed and bleeding gums; wobbly, missing teeth; and excessive drooling. Read our article on how to spot gum disease in dogs to find out more. 

Things you shouldn’t do

On the flip side, there are also a few things you shouldn’t do if you want to look after your dog’s oral health. Here’s what to avoid: 

Don’t ignore possible signs of trouble

As mentioned above, drooling and bad breath can be signs of dental problems and other health issues, but these symptoms are so commonly brushed off as being normal for our pooches. It’s important to take note of these kinds of possible warning signs though, as they can indicate serious problems. You can read more about the reasons you should take notice of stinky breath in our article on why dogs have bad breath.

Don’t be put off if your dog doesn’t initially like having their teeth cleaned

Most dogs probably aren’t going to love having their teeth cleaned, especially the first few times. But it’s crucial for their oral health that you persist with it and you do it right. Take a look at our guide to brushing your dog’s teeth to learn the best techniques. The more you do it, the more they’ll get used to it. Just make sure you’re calm and gentle about it and reward them with plenty of treats. They soon learn to look forward to it as they know what follows straight after!

Don’t let your dog chew things that could fracture their teeth

Dogs love to explore the world via their mouths, and unfortunately this can sometimes mean chewing things they’re not supposed to! The problem is (aside from your belongings being destroyed!) that if they get their teeth into something hard, it can result in dental fractures and tooth damage. But it’s not just everyday objects that you need to beware of, there are types of dog toys that are best to avoid too, including bones, antlers and hard plastic dog chews. And believe it or not, even tennis balls can damage teeth! This is because the furry surface carries sand and grit that can grind down teeth over time. Stick to soft rubber balls and toys, rope toys with no hard plastic bits and soft toys.

Puppy dental care

For your pup to develop a healthy set of gnashers, it’s great to get into good habits at an early stage. Dogs usually develop their adult teeth at around six months, but you can start getting them used to having their mouth and teeth handled as soon as possible, by lifting their lip and examining their teeth regularly. Once they have their adult teeth, you can graduate to a soft finger toothbrush and then a specially designed dog toothbrush. The earlier you start brushing their teeth, the easier it will be for them to adapt to the routine.

Do dogs really need their teeth cleaned?

Yes, it’s important that you frequently brush your dog’s teeth, as poor oral hygiene can cause gum disease and tooth loss, which can be painful and lead to further health complications. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar, and also help get rid of bacteria that causes bad breath. 

Is it too late to start brushing my dog’s teeth?

It’s ideal to begin a good dog dental care routine when your dog is young, but as long as their teeth are healthy, it’s never too late to start. It’s best to have them checked by a vet before you begin, to make sure their teeth are healthy, as tooth brushing can be painful if any infection or disease is present. If there are problems, book your dog in for treatment and then you can start your routine soon afterwards.

What if I haven’t brushed my dog’s teeth in years?

If you haven’t brushed your dog’s teeth in a long time, it’s a good idea to have them checked by a vet and to get their advice on the best dental care for your dog. It’s likely they will need a professional veterinary tooth clean and possibly further treatment, if they are suffering from gum disease. 

Hopefully you’ve learnt a bit more about the importance of dental care for dogs and how you can help keep your pooch’s teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Alongside a regular tooth-brushing routine, PEDIGREE ® DENTASTIX™ chews can play a great part in your dog’s daily oral care. Check out the full PEDIGREE ® DENTASTIX™ range.