Dental Care, from Vikki Marshall RVN APHC

Dental disease in dogs is one of the most common conditions which vets have to deal with today. With a little time and attention from you performing some basic dental care will keep your dog’s mouth healthy and clean. It will also help to reduce the risk of dental disease occurring. Dog’s teeth are similar to our own and are susceptible to some of the same oral problems that we suffer from.

When you purchase your puppy it will have is baby teeth or deciduous teeth, of these they have 28. The adult teeth replace the deciduous (baby) teeth between 4-5 months and during this time your puppy’s mouth may be a little sore and they may have the desire to chew more. The adult dog has 42 teeth to produce the correct mouth. The correct bite for a Bolognese is a regular scissor bite. Occasionally dogs can develop an incorrect bite so that they have what are known as overshot or undershot jaws or they can also have a level bite.

Good Oral hygiene for your dog is a really important part of dog ownership, more about why I have explained below and I will outline later how best to do this.

Puppies mouths generally tend to be free from tartar build up, gum infections and bad breath. As the dog matures and the adult teeth have settled over time a fine film of plaque begins to build up on the teeth. Plaque is made up of saliva, food and bacteria which sits on the surface of the teeth. It is difficult to see and if left un-cleaned forms a hard deposit which is known as tartar or calculus, which if left untreated can build up and completely cover the teeth. This can then begin to cause the dog discomfort when eating and will also make the mouth smell. Eventually this tartar will irritate the gum surrounding the tooth, causing it to become inflamed, red and swollen. This can be very painful and even cause a loss of appetite. As your dog chews their food, the inflamed gums may bleed, which releases bacteria and their toxins in to the dogs bloodstream, this can make your dog feel very unwell. These toxins can then causes secondary problems with organs such as the heart and liver. The inflammation can also spread to the tooth root or socket and cause what is known as a tooth root abscess. Halitosis or bad breath is often the first thing you may notice as a result of dental disease. Gingivitis and plaque can both contribute to the unpleasant odour in the mouth. Most dogs will generally require some dental treatment during their lifetime but the more you can do to support their dental health the lower the chances are of them requiring expensive dental treatment.

Tooth Brushing
Brushing your dog’s teeth can become a fun and enjoyable part of your daily routine. Begin with either a special dog toothbrush or alternatively a child’s toothbrush with soft rounded bristles. You MUST use a dog specific toothpaste as the fluoride in human toothpaste can be toxic to your dog. First begin by introducing the toothpaste to your dog by putting some on your finger and then allowing them to lick it off. Make the session enjoyable by giving lots of praise, repeat this for 3-5 days. The next step is to put the finger with toothpaste on into your dog’s mouth and gentle massage the teeth and gums, this will get them used to having their mouth handled. Repeat this until your dog is comfortable with finger brushing then begin to introduce more paste and move your finger around to different parts of the mouth, keep offering lots of praise throughout the entire procedure.

When your dog is comfortable with finger brushing then you can begin to introduce the toothbrush to them. Wet the brush with a small amount of water and apply the toothpaste pushing it well into the bristles. Begin with just a few teeth at a time and gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. To do the molars and premolars gently lift the lip but do not open your dog’s mouth completely as they will not like this. Initially brush the incisors by lifting the upper and lower lips together and use an upwards and downwards motion to gently clean the teeth.  If done routinely your dog will come to enjoy these sessions.

Other products are available to help you keep your dog’s teeth clean, mouth rinses such as hexarisne, or additives you can add to their water. There are specific dental biscuits available which help to scrape away the plaque as your dog chews. There are also seaweed additives that can be added to your dogs food that helps to soften the tartar so that eventually it can be scraped away. There is also, if your dog enjoys having their teeth brushed, an Ultrasonic toothbrush designed specifically for dogs available please see another article on this site that was written in review of this.

On a side note please DO NOT use antlers for your dog to chew, they run a very high risk of causing slab fractures to the larger upper carnassial teeth which will result in expensive extractions.

I hope this is helpful in keeping a pearly white smile on you beloved pets face.

Vikki Marshall RVN APHC

further reading

PRODUCT REVIEW – Emmi-pet, ultrasonic toothbrush

QUESTION: How Can I Keep my Bolognese Teeth Clean?

TOP TIP teeth brushing