• Vets treat an average of 11 cases of tooth and gum disease in dogs every week
  • Average cost of dental treatment for a dog is £186.52
  • Only a third of British dog owners brush their dog's teeth
  • If left untreated, tooth and gum disease can result in blood poisoning, organ disease and even death

New research1 from Direct Line Pet Insurance reveals the scale of dental problems amongst British dogs. Vets are treating an average of 11 cases involving tooth and gum disease every week, with one in six (16 per cent) seeing 20 or more cases.

Tooth and gum disease is something which is easily preventable if owners follow simple steps including regular brushing, improving their dog's diet and using dental specific food and chews if recommended by vets. Two thirds (66 per cent) of vets recommend that owners clean their dog's teeth every day. One in seven (14 per cent) suggest cleaning a dog's teeth twice a day, like we do our own teeth.

Despite the recommendation for regular tooth brushing, less than a third2 (30 per cent) of dog owners brush their dog's teeth. Those who do, brush an average of 109 times a year, or nine times a month, with just under a third (31 per cent) brushing every couple of days.

According to vets across the UK, the most common causes of tooth and gum disease in dogs are poor diet (42 per cent) and owner's not brushing their dog's teeth correctly or often enough (23 per cent). This can lead to periodontal disease, a build-up of plaque which can if left untreated cause the gums to recede, bacteria to enter the bloodstream and sometimes even spread to other organs, the heart, for example.

The worst case scenarios for untreated tooth and gum disease in animals can result in tooth extractions, blood poisoning / septicaemia, tooth loss, disease in other organs and even death.

Treatment for a dog with tooth and gum disease costs an average of £186.52, but can cost upwards of £300 according to vets. The most common course of remedial treatment is a scale and polish treatment at the vets, under anaesthetic, accompanied by regular tooth brushing and using dental food or chews.

TV vet and animal welfare campaigner Marc Abraham commented: "Brushing your dog's teeth isn't just about cleaning its teeth and gums; it's about reducing harmful bacteria entering your pet's bloodstream and preventing painful dental conditions, as well as recognising what's normal in your dog's mouth. Only by knowing what healthy teeth and gums look like will you be able to spot any abnormalities early.

"There are three main reasons owners give for not cleaning their dog's teeth; the dog doesn't like it, it takes too much time or they feed their dog dried food so feel they don't need to. None of these are good enough excuses. With positive reinforcement, using treats and praise, most dogs even end up enjoying their daily tooth brushing. Also, cleaning your dog's teeth doesn't take very long at all and once you've got the hang of it, can be done in a minute. However dry your dog's food is, it is never a substitute for actually physically cleaning your dog's teeth."

Some of the most common signs a dog may be suffering from a dental problem are:

  • Blood on their toys
  • Facial swelling
  • Dropping food
  • Favouring one side of the mouth
  • Bad breath

Prit Powar, head of pet insurance at Direct Line said: "We know how important it is to clean our own teeth, yet many of us do not consider how important it is to clean our dog's teeth. There are many dental products on the market including chews, toys, treats and even specific food, but none of these should be used as a substitute for cleaning your dog's teeth. If you're unsure how to do it and want to be shown how, or are concerned your dog is suffering a dental health issue then take your pet to see the vet."

Marc Abraham's simple steps to train a dog to have its teeth cleaned:

  • Start by getting your dog used to having your fingers around its mouth by gently pulling gums back and massaging them
  • Use a finger brush to get your dog used to having something touching its teeth and gums
  • Once your dog is used to the finger brush, move on to using toothpaste and a doggy toothbrush. Only dog-friendly toothpaste should be used as it does not contain fluoride which is dangerous to dogs
  • Always use positive reinforcement with treats and praise so your dog ends up enjoying having its teeth cleaned

Direct Line Pet Insurance's Advanced policy now includes up to £1,000 towards dental disease and illness treatment costs as standard.

Notes to editors

  1. Research carried out among vets between 18-22 April 2016
  2. Research conducted by Opinium amongst 2006 adults between 15-19 April 2016

For further information, please contact:

Claire Foster
Direct Line
Email: claire.foster@directlinegroup.co.uk
Tel: 0165 183 1672

Antonia Green
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Email: antonia.green@citigatedr.co.uk
Tel: 020 7282 2967

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 878 5587 or visiting www.directline.com