Dental issues are unfortunately very common in adult and mature dogs, but most of these can be prevented by a combination of appropriate care and vigilance when it comes to the teeth, which should ideally start when the dog in question is still a puppy.
However, the majority of dog owners don’t pay much attention to their dog’s teeth, which means that their dogs miss out on having their teeth cleaned and maintained, putting them at risk of plaque, tartar, tooth decay and gum disease, as well as damage to the teeth from injuries and other factors too.
Bad breath in the dog is often one of the first indications of a dental problem in the making – and yet many dog owners think that bad breath is normal for the dog, and not something that requires correction.
This means that by the time a dog is mature or elderly, they may well have developed a range of dental problems that can be painful, uncomfortable and debilitating, and will require a comprehensive veterinary dental procedure under a general anaesthetic in order to correct the problem.
If you take care of your dog’s teeth from their first days with you and remain vigilant and conscientious about taking care of their teeth and protecting them from damage as they get older, you can potentially prevent the need for a serious intervention later on, as well as avoiding pain, discomfort and tooth loss in your dog.
However, there is more to this than simply giving your dog the odd dental chew, or half-heartedly brushing their teeth every few weeks – and in this article, we will outline the dental care you should provide for your dog throughout all of their life stages, from puppy to senior and beyond. Read on to learn more.
When you first get a new puppy, you should schedule a check-up for them with your vet within a few days of bringing them home, so that they can give your pet a clean bill of health and ensure that there are no problems in the making. Examining your dog’s teeth will be a part of this process, and will allow your vet to spot any potential problems such as an irregular bite, crooked teeth, or anything else that may be an issue as your pup gets older.
As well as looking for damage, plaque and tartar, you should also keep an eye out as your pup’s baby teeth are lost and their adult teeth grow in to make sure that their teeth are descending normally, and that their mouths aren’t overcrowded or displaying potential problems.
Certain dog breeds such as the Chinese Crested sometimes display what is known as a primitive mouth, which is an anomalous development of the teeth and dentition that can potentially cause issues, and which should be monitored.
The earlier you start brushing your pup’s teeth, the easier it will be to manage – and the better your chances of introducing them to having their teeth cleaned successfully to avoid problems when they are adults.
Choose the right toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs to ensure that it is a good fit for your dog’s mouth, and brush gently and carefully a few times a week. Remember that it is the brushing rather than the toothpaste that has the most beneficial effect on your dog, so don’t be tempted to take shortcuts!
As your pup gets older, they will start to lose their baby teeth as they are pushed out by their adult teeth when they start growing in. Most pups lose their baby teeth while eating and many baby teeth are swallowed, so you may never see a lost baby tooth at home, unless it happens to get caught in a chew toy!
As your pup gets older, check their teeth regularly to ensure that the adult teeth are descending normally and without problems.
Puppies need access to a range of different chew toys to assist with teething, and allow them to ease the pain of their new teeth breaking through the gums as well as helping to cut in the new teeth so that they descend into their correct positions.
Adult dogs too need access to chew toys, and chew toys should be selected carefully taking into account your dog’s age, build, size and dental structure.
When your dog is an adult and has all of their adult teeth in place, you must remain vigilant about cleaning and checking the teeth, to keep them in good condition and look out for any problems or issues that may develop over time, to nip them in the bud before they begin to cause problems.
Your adult dog should see the vet once a year for their annual check-up and boosters, during which your vet will also examine their teeth and ensure that there are no problems.
As well as the risk of tooth and gum disease which can lead to dental problems, dogs can also break, wear down and otherwise damage their teeth by playing with and chewing on things that are unsuitable. Don’t let your dog pick up or chew stones or rocks, nor use these as toys to retrieve, and ensure that you don’t give your dog anything too hard or tough to eat or chew on.
Dogs who have their teeth cared for from a young age are less likely to suffer from serious dental problems when older – but problems can still arise, and many elderly dogs will need a dental extraction or sedated deep clean at some point.
Ensuring that your dog gets the dental care that they need when they need it will help to resolve early problems that can worsen over time, and keep your dog’s teeth healthy, pain-free and functional for the long term.