dog dental care

What Every Owner Needs to Know about Dog Dental Care

Is your Dog’s Dental Care at the end of a long “To Do” list?

Offensive ‘dog breath’ is often the result of poor dog dental care. Whilst most pet parents agree it’s best practice to brush their fur-friend’s teeth, in reality it’s hard to find time. But don’t be down-hearted, because cleaning your dogs’ teeth doesn’t have to be hard work and there is plenty you can do to keep those gnashers and gums in chew-tastic condition.

What is Dog Dental Disease?

Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) in dog
Image source: Veterinary Oral Health Council –

One motivation for cleaning dogs teeth is sweeter kisses and licks, but if this isn’t motivation enough let’s consider how it can benefit your dog’s health (and your pocket by avoiding costly dental descales.)

Dental disease in dogs is mostly the result of plaque, which hardens to tartar, causing gum infections and recession.

You know that sticky feeling coating your teeth get when you forget to brush?

Well, this is because of plaque. This is an invisible sticky biofilm that contains bacteria which quickly coats tooth enamel. The bacteria in plaque reacts with the minerals in food to form hard deposits known as tartar. The bacteria in tartar irritate the gums leading to infection (known as ‘gingivitis’) and gum recession. From there it’s only a hop and a skip to wobbly teeth that fall out.

“Gum disease is probably the most common disease affecting cats and dogs today”. Rachel Perry, RCVS Advanced Veterinary Dental Practitioner


What are Dog Teeth Supposed to Look Like?

A good starting point is to check your dog’s teeth and see if they have a problem or if they deserve a gold star for dental hygiene. To do this, carefully lift your dog’s lips and works front to back, top to bottom, to inspect their teeth and gums.

A healthy dog mouth looks this way:

  • The Teeth: Clean white enamel (much like our own). Cream or brown deposits are tartar.
  • The Gums: Again, much like our own, these should be a pale pink colour tight up against the crowns of the teeth. If there is an angry red line, bleeding, ulceration, or gum recession these are indicators of dental disease.
  • The Smell: A healthy mouth has very little odour. Bad breath that makes you recoil could indicate a high bacterial count in the mouth.
healthy dog gums and teeth
Image source: Veterinary Oral Health Council –

How to Clean Dog’s Teeth

OK, cards on the table. If your dog’s mouth is already dirty with thick brown tartar deposits, inflamed gums, and wobbly teeth then you need to opt for the nuclear option of a descale at the vets. This is the safest way to get the problem back to ground zero so you can move forward and maintain that healthy mouth.

If all is resonably well and you feel you are willing to give it a go your self, then you have a variety of options:

  • Brushing Teeth: At the risk of sounding like nagging, brushing teeth isn’t as difficult or time consuming as you might suppose. The secret is to use dog toothpaste. Not only are these fluoride free (fluoride can be toxic when swallowed) but they taste delicious to dogs. In fact we were very impressed by the variety of dog toothpaste flavours on the market whilst researching an article on the best dog toothpasteBeef-flavoured toothpaste…Nom, nom, nom. Go on…give it a go.
  • Dental Diets: BARF (Biological available raw food) fans site the near miraculous power of raw meaty bones to clean previously dirty teeth. Vets are more cautious and recommend specially formulated kibble such as Hills TD or Eukanuba adult maintenance. These hold the seal of approval of the Veterinary Oral Health Council as of proven benefit for cleaning teeth.
  • Dental Chews: These have the advantage of being a treat, keeping your dog busy and contributing to better dental health. They work best on the big grinding teeth at the back of the mouth, so be aware those fangs at the front are still at risk. Please refer to our reviews of the best dentals chews for dogs for insightful (and surprising) reviews, including the battle of the big brands Pedigree Dentastix and Greenies, and many others to get your teeth into.

How to Remove Plaque from Dog’s Teeth

If you have a puppy or a dog (perhaps after a recent descale) whose teeth are clean then you’ll want to keep them that way. If you can remove or prevent plaque then you’re in a strong position to keep your dog’s mouth fresh and tartar free.

  • Water Additives: As the name suggests these are products you add to the dog’s water to reduce plaque formation. These include Dentagen Aqua, Clenz a Dent, and ProDen Plaque Off. They work by reducing the stickiness of plaque meaning it’s less able to adhere to teeth’s surface enamel.
  • Oral Gels or Sprays: These help reduce the bacterial count in the mouth which acts as a dog breath freshener and decrease the rate of plaque formation. These are easy to use, by lifting the lip and then spritzing the teeth or applying a blob to a fingertip and rubbing over the teeth once or twice a day. Recommended products include Logic Oral Hygiene Gel and Vet Aquadent Anti-plaque Solution.

Don’t Do More Harm than Good

Deer antlers are widely available and promoted as being beneficial for cleaning dogs’ teeth: However, the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) warn owners their members are seeing increased numbers of dogs with fractured or broken teeth as a result of chewing on deer antlers, [2] and their recommendation is to avoid these products.

And finally, dog dental care needn’t be a drag and can easily be incorporated into your daily dog care routine. You may be pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic your dog is about the taste of dog toothpaste (never use human toothpaste!) But whether you chose tooth brushing or the ultra-easy option of an antiplaque water additive, know that a little time invested can reap big dividends when it comes to improving your dog’s dental health.

Do you wish you’d done things differently with your dog’s teeth?

Please leave a comment and share your experiences.


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