Direct Line magazine

Take care of your dog’s gums

Updated on: 15 February 2021

A dog looks at a toothbrush.

Has your dog’s breath ever smelt so bad, you’ve needed to pinch your nose just to get close enough for a cuddle?

It’s easy to blame our dogs for their bad breath, but is the stink really so surprising when only a third of owners brush their pup’s teeth? Imagine if we put down our toothbrushes for months on end, I’m sure people would want to give us a wide berth too.

Joking aside, gum and tooth disease in dogs is a big problem in Britain. The 2019 Paw Report from PDSA lists periodontal (gum) disease as the second most common condition seen in UK dogs by vets, at 9.3%.

Gum problems can be expensive to treat, so you could save yourself a lot of money (and your pet a lot of discomfort) by following a few handy pointers.

If left untreated tooth and gum disease in animals can lead to septicaemia and tooth loss

Stop your dog getting gum disease

There are three main things you can do to help your dog in the fight against gum disease:

  • Regular brushing

  • Improving your dog’s diet

  • Dental chews and food recommended by your vet

How to know if your dog has gum disease

There are a few tell-tale signs that your dog needs a bit of gum attention. These include:

  • Dropping food

  • Blood on their toys

  • Facial swelling

  • Favouring one side of the mouth

  • Bad breath

If your pup is showing these symptoms, head to the vet for some treatment.

The main dangers of tooth and gum disease

The main thing to be wary of is periodontal disease. This is a build-up of plaque which, if left untreated, can cause the gums to recede, bacteria to enter the bloodstream and sometimes even spread to other organs, like the heart.

Untreated tooth and gum disease in animals can also lead to septicaemia and tooth extraction.

Like we mentioned earlier, treatment for a dog with tooth and gum disease costs £186.52 on average, but some vets say it can be as much as £300. Treatment is often a trip to the vets for a scale and polish, followed by regular brushing and dental food or chews.

Two thirds of vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily, and one in seven suggest cleaning twice a day

How to brush your dog’s teeth

You should definitely set aside a bit of time to brush your dog’s teeth. Around 23% of tooth and gum disease is a result of poor (or no) brushing. A recent study found that only 29% of dog owners thought tooth brushing was important for dogs. However this figure was higher for vets and vet nurses, at 66% and 80% respectively.

Two thirds of vets recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily, and one in seven suggest cleaning twice a day. The problem is, less than a third of owners actually brush their dog’s teeth at all.

TV vet and animal welfare campaigner Marc Abraham told Direct Line: “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. However dry your dog’s food is, it’s never a substitute for actually physically cleaning your dog’s teeth.”

Follow Marc’s four simple steps to get your dog’s teeth gleaming:

Step one: Make sure your dog is used to having your fingers in his mouth. Start by pulling back the gums and massaging them.

Step two: Try using a finger toothbrush. Your dog will soon get used to having something touching his teeth and gums.

Step three: Introduce some toothpaste and a doggy toothbrush. Only use dog-friendly toothpaste – human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is bad for dogs.

Step four: After each clean it’s a good idea to reward your dog with a treat. Even if they find the tooth brushing a bit of an ordeal, they still get a treat to make it worthwhile.

Although regular brushing, the right food and dental chews all help fight against tooth and gum disease, it’s still a good idea to make sure dental cover is included as part of your dog insurance.

Start brushing today; your dog will soon have much fresher breath and lovely, healthy gums.

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