Pet Dental Health Month

February is Pet Dental Health Month, so we’re sharing some of our top tips to keep your dogs teeth in top shape.

Dogs have 28 super sharp baby teeth that come in when they’re around 3-4 weeks old – if you’ve had a puppy you’ll know how lethal they are! By around 6 months old they will normally have lost their baby teeth and have 42 adult teeth – 20 on the upper jaw and 22 on the lower jaw. The adult teeth are made up of incisors, canines, premolars and molars, all with their own role.

Incisors are the small teeth at the front of your dog’s mouth, and they’re designed to pull flesh away from bone, as well as hold things. Canines are the large ‘fang’ looking teeth, with 2 on the upper jaw and 2 on the lower jaw, and are primarily used to grip. The premolars are at the side of your dog’s mouth behind the canines, and these are the teeth your dog will use to chew. Finally, the molars are found at the back of the mouth behind the premolars, and these aid digestion by grinding food before it’s swallowed. 

Gum disease in dogs

Unfortunately, gum and dental disease is five times more common in dogs than humans, so ensuring you keep your dog’s mouth healthy is really important. It also helps to be aware of the signs of dental problems so you can seek help as soon as possible.

Some of the most common signs of gum and dental disease are:

  • Bleeding or red gums – it’s not always easy to spot but you may notice traces of blood on chews or toys rather than on the gum themselves.
  • Difficulty picking things up
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Strange noises when your dog is eating
  • Dribbling – particularly if there’s a sudden increase or your dog doesn’t normally dribble
  • Tooth loss
  • Bad breath – we tend to think of bad breath as being one of those things that happen as our dogs get older, but bad breath can be a sign of a wide range of health problems so it’s always worth getting your dog checked out by your vet if you notice it. 

Getting your dog comfortable with having their teeth looked at can help you keep on top of their dental health, and is also really useful if they do need to have them looked at by the vet as they’re already comfortable being handled without the added stress of the vet suddenly trying to look at their mouths. You can practice this by gently lifting your dog’s gums and rewarding them, gradually increasing duration.

What can we do to keep our dog’s teeth and gums healthy?

Just like humans, diet is a key factor in keeping your dog’s mouth healthy. Make sure their normal food is kind to teeth and gums, and cut back on overly processed or sugary foods and treats. 

Chews can also be beneficial to your dog’s teeth as they massage the gums and help to remove tartar. Chewing is also a natural stress-relieving behaviour that dogs really enjoy so it’s a great way of keeping them occupied too. There are lots of ‘dental’ chews on the market but some of these are high in sugar and not always as beneficial as they’re advertised to be. There are lots of natural chews available –  we love JR Pet Products if you’re looking for a healthy, super tasty and long-lasting chew.

You can also buy lots of doggy dental care products such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and plaque remover. If you want to start using a toothbrush, start really slowly and gradually build up to brushing their teeth. You could start with really short sessions and just massaging their gums or teeth with your finger for a few seconds. Once they’re comfortable with this you can introduce the toothbrush, initially just keeping it still, and gradually building up to brushing. Keep sessions short and focus on a different part of the mouth each time rather than trying to brush all their teeth in one go, particularly if they’re a little bit unsure. 

Amanda Griffiths
Amanda is currently training to become a professional dog trainer, and is passionate about the benefits of enrichment and mental stimulation on dog health and behaviour. She’s the founder of The Cognitive Canine Company, providing enrichment and behavioural support to owners of dogs that require crate rest, restricted exercise or have a long term condition that impacts their mobility. In her spare time, she enjoys trick training and rally obedience with her Shetland Sheepdog, Poppy.

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