Pet Dental Health Month – Dogs

Did you know February is Pet Dental Health Month?

Dental and oral hygiene is a huge part of keeping your pet healthy, no matter what size or species. We’ve put together some information for dogs, cats and rabbits which you can read over the next few weeks.  This week we focus on dogs.

What teeth should my dog have?

Dogs have 4 different types of teeth which develop and may be lost over their lifetime. Have a look at the types of teeth and their purpose below;

  • Incisors – These are the small teeth at the front of your dog’s mouth and will be used for nibbling and stripping meat.
  • Canines – Your dog should have a set of 4 canine teeth. These are used for holding and puncturing food and objects.
  • Premolars – These are the teeth at the sides of your dog’s mouth which begin just behind the canine teeth. These are used for chewing.
  • Molars – These are the larger teeth towards the back of your dog’s mouth and will be used for grinding down food.

As a puppy your dog will normally have the following deciduous teeth (28 in total);

  • 12 incisors
  • 4 canines
  • 12 premolars

As your dog grows up they will lose their puppy teeth and the following adult teeth will appear (42 in total );

  • 12 incisors
  • 4 canines
  • 16 premolars
  • 10 molars

An adult dog’s teeth
(diagram courtesy of the Merck Vet Manual)

Teeth are made up of many different layers starting from the inner pulp to the outer enamel. Problems normally arise when there has been damage to the enamel and other layers or when there has been detachment of the gum to the tooth.

Signs of a problem with your pet’s teeth or mouth might include the following;

  • Smelly breath
  • Difficulty eating
  • A change in behaviour
  • Weight loss
  • Pain or rubbing at the mouth
  • Excess drooling or salivation
  • Redness or bleeding around the gums

Common issues

If you notice a problem with your pet and suspect it may be their teeth, then a vet consultation is always a good idea and should be your first step. They may suggest a dental under a general anaesthetic which could range from a Scale and Polish (removal of tartar build up) to extractions of teeth or may suggest some preventative dental care treatment.

Common dental issues seen when we examine dogs include; broken teeth, gum disease, tartar build up, rotten teeth and masses within the mouth.

Broken or rotten teeth normally require removal and you will find your pet’s breath should smell much better after this.

Masses within the mouth can be there for a number of reasons. It is always worth discussing removal with your vet as it is impossible to diagnose just by looking at the abnormal area.

It’s worth remembering that extra tartar and bacteria in the mouth, means more bacteria in the body generally which can lead to systemic infections and your pet becoming ill.

Preventative dental care top tips

  • Daily tooth brushing
  • Whilst this is not always possible, if you can train your dog from an early age this will help your dog’s teeth by reducing the amount of tartar that can build up. Start off with a small amount of meaty toothpaste on your pet’s gums and build up to putting this on a small pet or children’s toothbrush. Take it steady and build up your pet’s tooth brushing gradually.
  • Dental diets
  • These diets are usually formulated to have a kibble size and shape which should reduce the amount of tartar that can build up. Often the biscuit size is larger to ensure your pet has to chew through it and the rough centre should keep the teeth clean.
  • Dental chews
  • Chews can be a great way to break down tartar build up and prevent it from getting worse. Take care though as some can be quite high in calories and may end up with your dog gaining extra weight. Take chews and treats into consideration when weighing out their food.
  • Dental gels and mouthwashes
  • These are formulated products that contain enzymes to help breakdown tartar and avoid it affecting your dog’s teeth. The dog mouthwash can be added to the drinking water as directed on the bottle and your dog should have better smelling breath from drinking this. Don’t worry; dog mouthwash is safe to drink so no gargling required!
  • Dental clinics with your veterinary nurse
  • Your practice may run dental clinics for your pet to attend and monitor their teeth. Problems can be picked up quickly and the veterinary nurse will help you to work with your dog to keep their teeth as healthy as possible.

We hope you have learned more about your dog and their dental health.

Next week the focus is on the felines!