Yes, it can be a bit of a smelly problem - but, it’s not something you should ignore! Firstly, it’s important to know that that you should NOT use human toothpaste on your dog’s teeth as it may contain ingredients that could be toxic to dogs. Human toothpaste generally contains fluoride and possibly xylitol (artificial sweetener) as well as other chemical ingredients and it’s important to remember that unlike us humans, dogs don’t ‘rinse’ or spit out toothpaste so the ingredients are absorbed or swallowed.
According to an RSPCA survey...
any owners simply think doggy bad breath is ‘normal’ and don’t appreciate the potentially serious nature of dental problems in dogs. Tartar will stick to the teeth and irritate the gums which can become inflamed – gingivitis. A build-up of tartar under the gums could result in ‘pockets’ in the gums where bacteria will grow. However, the build-up of tartar and plaque on a dog’s teeth could potentially damage not only his oral health but also his heart health.
The damage to the gums could allow bacteria from the mouth to get into the bloodstream and around his body. If the immune system doesn’t kill off these bacteria, there is a risk they could reach the heart and cause infection or promote the formation of blood clots.
The UK Kennel Club suggest that dental disease is the second most common health issue for dogs and in the USA it is suggested that around 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease by the time they’re 3.
Here are the most obvious signs of gum disease to watch out for:
- Redness of the gums
- Bad breath
- Loose, broken or discoloured teeth
- Tenderness/bleeding of the mouth/teeth
- Poor appetite and drooling or dropping food
- Weight loss
Periodontal disease causes considerable pain and can result in abscesses, infections, loose teeth and even bone loss – and regular visits to your Vet will help you monitor your dog’s oral as well as his overall health. You can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy with regular tooth brushing (daily is best, but at least 3-4 times a week), feeding the right diet and offering high quality ‘dental’ chews. Did you know that when your dog gnaws on raw meat, it acts as a natural toothbrush and dental floss! Fresh raw bones can also be given, but must be big enough not to splinter (cooked bones can also splinter so should not be given).
It’s a good idea to start dental care as soon as you get your dog so he’s happy to allow you (and your vet) to open his mouth and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on or around the tongue, gums or roof of his mouth.