Pearly whites: window to your pooch’s health


Probably the number one health problem for dogs, apart from being overweight, is periodontal disease. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80 percent of dogs show signs of periodontal disease by the age of three. Here’s how to take care of your pooch’s teeth.

The accumulation of tartar and plaque and the resulting gingivitis can lead to more serious disease. Tartar accumulates, and eventually the healthy pink gum starts to look red, and swell. At this point, without medical intervention, gingivitis or inflammation of the gum takes over. This process leads to bad breath. And worse, it often leads to damage to the jawbones, and loss of teeth. Pet parents can lightly brush their dog’s teeth at least twice a week to remove plaque deposits. A child’s nylon toothbrush dipped in a toothpaste made for dogs should be used. Do not use toothpaste made for humans, which can cause nausea in dogs if swallowed. An alternative to brushing is using a dental chew. Studies by Waltham have shown that certain specifically designed dental health chews (Dentastix) result in a significant reduction of plaque and calculus accumulation, gingivitis and malodour. Dry dog food like Pedigree also helps prevent dental plaque accumulation.

Spot check – Teeth and gums
Puppies enjoy chewing on everyday household objects. Discourage your dog from doing that and provide him with a specially designed toy. Although puppies will generally not have problems with their teeth or gums, plaque can quickly build up at the base of the teeth and cause gum disease in dogs as young as 12 months. To reduce the risk of this happening, regularly check your pet’s teeth. Special dog biscuits or chews are very beneficial and help clean the plaque off your dog’s teeth. You can also introduce tooth brushing at this age.
Lift your dog’s lips away from his gums, and press a finger firmly over an upper tooth. When taken away, the white colour of the finger imprint on the gum should return to pink. Open the dog’s mouth to inspect all his teeth. Beware of tartar build-up, which is yellow to dark brown in colour, and can lead to periodontal disease. This should be removed by a veterinarian. Regular veterinary dental cleaning along with specially designed pet toothbrushes and toothpaste and chew snacks, designed to eliminate plaque, can help reduce build-up.

What you can do to help your dog?
First of all, have your dog visit your vet to have his teeth properly cleaned. The procedures used are similar to what we go through when we visit the dentist to have our teeth cleaned. The difference is that dogs who have their teeth cleaned are either sedated with a tranquiliser or, more commonly, put under general anesthesia. In between visits to the vet, brush your pet’s teeth regularly. How do you do this? It’s easy. First, go to your vet’s shop and buy a toothbrush designed for using on dogs, along with toothpaste made for dogs.

How to brush your dog’s teeth?
Start by putting a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger, and gently rubbing it on your dog’s front teeth and gums. After a few times, switch from a finger to a dog’s or a child’s toothbrush, one with soft, rounded bristles. Start by brushing the front teeth only, with a downward motion on the top teeth and upward on the lower teeth—the same way we’re supposed to brush our own teeth. After your dog gets used to this new activity, start doing teeth farther back in the mouth, brushing the premolars, then molars with the same motion you used on the front teeth. Consult your vet for suitable brush and paste.