Cleaning your dog's teeth

Keeping your dog's teeth clean is important, as ignoring this can lead to plaque build-up and dental disease. Dental disease is very common in dogs, second only to ear infections, and can be extremely uncomfortable - much like we would experience. To avoid expensive treatment costs check and clean your dog's teeth regularly as part of their grooming treatment

Cleaning dogs teeth 

Dog chewing dental stick © RSPCA

Before you start cleaning your dog's teeth, it's always best to ask your vet to show you the best way to do this. Different breeds show varying jaw alignments and how the teeth meet. Brachycephalic dogs, like Pugs and Chihuahuas, have poorly aligned jaws with crowded or absent teeth; therefore are more likely to suffer from dental disease. 

Start teeth cleaning when they're a puppy and brush their teeth everyday to get them used to it. If you haven't done this, then gradually introduce the activity by having your finger near their mouth. Maintain the habit and slowly introduce brushing until this is natural.

You'll need a to buy a dog toothpaste as human ones aren't suitable. A special dog toothbrush that goes over your finger is used to brush their teeth, but if you don't have this a child sized toothbrush is fine.

Keep brushing their teeth as part of a regular grooming routine.

Signs your dog has dental or gum disease

Dental disease can appear quite suddenly, or progress overtime and take months. Make sure you look out for these signs:

  • Deposits may build up on the teeth
  • Gums will be damaged and bleed
  • Mouth is infected which will give off a foul smell
  • Sensitive root of the tooth may be exposed and painful
  • Discoloured teeth that die and fall out
  • Your dog may also refuse food, have difficulty eating or leave flecks of blood in their bowls.

If your dog has any of these symptoms, please contact your vet.

Fractured teeth

When your dog chews a large piece of solid material such as a large bone or stone, the teeth could be fractured. If they whimper when chewing it, paw at the mouth, ooze blood in their saliva or refuse food please see your vet immediately.

Dental disease treatment

If you find your dog has dental disease, carry out treatment only under the direction of your vet. Most likely your dog will require sedation or general anaesthesia to properly examine their mouth. X-rays might also be taken to reveal any abnormalities of the tooth or bone. 

Vet dog teeth cleaning © RSPCA

If the affected teeth aren't too bad, they would be scaled and polished to remove mineral deposits. With more severe cases such as fractured or loose teeth, they may need to be removed. Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics will most likely be needed after surgery. 

Ongoing commitment to regular dental care will be required to prevent the disease coming back. To avoid putting your dog through such a situation, start teeth cleaning in puppy years.

Maintaining healthy teeth

Every dog is unique, so there's never one diet that will suit all dogs. If you're unsure what works best for your dog, a vet or reputable pet shop will be able to give you more specific advice on the best diet.

Some owners may favour wet foods for their dog over dry. However, dry dog food may have the added benefit of exercising their chewing muscles and provide a mild cleaning effect on the teeth.

Dental chews and treats are also a good way of helping to keep your dog's teeth clean.

Feeding bones to your dog

Feeding bones is controversial. Although raw, meaty bones may be a tasty treat for your dog and do help clean teeth, they can be hazardous. Bones can cause dental fractures with some dogs who might eat 'energetically', and can cause constipation.

Cooked bones are likely to fragment and cause internal damage. Ask your vet for advice first before feeding your dog bones and supervise them if and when they do eat them.