Teeth and mouth problems can affect all breeds whether large or small. There can be genetic causes but most problems are due to accidents, bad habits (like carrying tennis balls) or a gradual development over time of teeth and gum disease, often called periodontal disease by vets.
Approximately 80% of all dogs are thought to develop some form of periodontal disease by the age of 3, so vets have become very good at spotting the signs at check-ups. It’s important to try and pick these indicators up early as dogs can develop severe discomfort with dental problems. Often, in addition to the smelly breath, they will have difficulty eating their food, have swollen jaws and they may rub their face against surfaces to alleviate the pain and even cry.
Of course, sometimes accidents happen. But making sure your dog has appropriate chew toys (rather than the furniture) and isn’t allowed to carry toys in his mouth all day will help prevent dental problems. Throwing sticks is best avoided as these can damage your dog’s mouth if he misjudges where to pick the stick up and can splinter in the mouth if he chews it, but there are some great pet toy versions of these to take to the park if your dog loves retrieving.
Feeding a dry food with the right bite size can help abrade the teeth and encourage mechanical cleaning. The kibbles need to be large enough that your dog can crunch into them before swallowing, but also not so large that your dog struggles to eat them. Having a good level of fibre in the food creates the optimum texture on the kibbles to clean your dog’s teeth so aiming for above 2% fibre would be ideal. Other nutrients can also help – lower protein and calcium levels can reduce the mineralisation of teeth and good levels of zinc can have an antiseptic property and help to slow down tartar build-up. With a tails.com blend, these nutrients are already balanced at healthy levels but if your dog has problems with tartar, we can adjust the blend further.
Choosing healthy dental treats rather than those with sugar or sweet coatings can also help prevent any tartar build-up. Brushing your dog’s teeth gently every day, using a specific brush designed for dogs’ teeth alongside flavoured pet toothpaste, (as your dog can’t know to spit out the fluoride in toothpaste like we do) will also be effective in preventing decay. Some dog toothpastes also contains special enzyme complexes that continue working after the brushing session so can have a beneficial effect for longer.
Discussing dental issues during your regular check-ups with the vet is a good idea, especially if your dog has had dental problems in the past. Your vet will advise on what you can achieve at home with good dental habits and when your dog will need professional teeth cleaning or the dental specialist.