Dental Disease in Dogs

Dental disease in dogs, more common than you think!


Dental disease affects around 80% of dogs from 2 years of age!


Clinical signs we may see are:


  1. Bad breath
  2. Yellow/brown discolouration (tartar) around the gum line
  3. Red/swollen gums
  4. Discolouration around the mouth and/or drooling
  5. Rubbing/pawing at the mouth
  6. Decreased appetite, difficulty eating, inactivity 
  7. Loose/missing teeth. 


However, often pets with dental disease have only very subtle signs as they cannot tell us they have dental pain. As owners cannot ‘see pain,’ it is often a very neglected area.   Periodontal disease is a painful inflammatory condition involving bacteria attacking the gums and ligaments and bony tissues which support the teeth. It is a progressive and often irreversible disease that eventually leads to the tooth becoming loose and falling out.  In addition it may lead to abscess formation or bacteria may be shed into the blood stream, to cause life threatening infection to the heart or other internal organs. Small breed dogs are more susceptible due to overcrowding of teeth and the smaller jaw size, but all breeds may be affected.  Apparently 90% of pets will show marked improvement eg more energy or eating more comfortably after dental treatment, not to mention being more pleasant to be around with better breath!


So what can you do to help?


If dental disease is already present then your dog may initially need a general anaesthetic to enable your veterinary surgeon to remove tartar with ultrasonic scaling, clean thoroughly under the gum margin and polish the teeth (to prevent bacteria adhering to the teeth after treatment).  In addition your dog may need extraction of loose or damaged teeth.


However prevention is definitely better than cure, so what can we do at home to prevent the need for veterinary dental treatment:


  1. Feed a good diet.  Avoid soft wet foods which stick to the teeth, many premium dried foods/dental diets contain substances to help to abrade and clean the teeth.  Be careful with bones especially very hard ones as they often break more teeth than they save!  Use chews or rubber toys especially designed to help with teeth cleaning. 
  2. If possible brush your dog’s teeth daily.  This sounds a difficult task but most dogs will accept brushing if approached in a gentle manner.  Start using a soft finger brush or soft cloth and gently rub a few teeth at a time.  Reward your dog after each session with praise/treats. Do not use human tooth paste as they are not designed to swallow in quantities due to foaming agents.  Use a canine toothpaste available at your vets and gradually progress to a soft long handled brush. 
  3. Aquadent is a new drinking water additive which helps to reduce bacterial growth and decrease the accumulation of plaque and calculus on teeth by over 50%.  Available from your vet.