Gum disease in dogs

Do you know how to prevent dental problems in your dog and how to spot them?

Keeping your dog’s mouth clean and healthy is all part of being a responsible pet owner. 

Clean teeth and a healthy mouth are a good start to looking after your furry friend’s overall health.

Like our own teeth, our dog's teeth can develop a build-up of plaque that can become tartar – a hard substance made up of bad bacteria if left untreated. This build up on the teeth will eventually cause gingivitis and could potentially lead to more severe periodontal disease. You will know your dog has gingivitis if they have red, swollen gums that can sometimes bleed and cause a bad and unpleasant odour from their mouths.

Gum disease symptoms

The following are signs there may be a problem with your dog’s mouth:

  • Smelly breath
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Yellow crusty build up on the teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dropping food from the side of the mouth
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss.

Prevention is better than cure and regular dental check-ups by a vet are crucial. Without such examinations, should your dog develop gingivitis or a more advanced periodontal disease, bacteria may travel through the blood stream and, in extreme cases, has been known to cause heart and kidney problems. 

Brushing your dog’s teeth

If possible, you should brush your dog’s teeth regularly. As a rule, dogs seem to tolerate this reasonably well and once your dog is used to the process, it’s much easier than you think. 

It’s advisable to get your dog comfortable with having their teeth cleaned from as early an age as possible. Choose a time when your dog is comfortable and relaxed, keeping it to short sessions to get them used to it. Start by getting your dog used to you handling their mouth by stroking their cheek gently back and forth. 

Once they are comfortable with this, which could take a few days, progress to getting them used to the taste of the toothpaste by letting them lick it before you start rubbing it on their gums. Again, this can take days to build up their tolerance and you should always be led by your dog’s comfort. 

Only use an animal-friendly toothpaste as human toothpaste is toxic to dogs. 

Once your dog is comfortable allowing you to rub the toothpaste on their gums, you can progress to using a gentle toothbrush starting at the front and gradually moving to the back teeth using slow circular motions. 

Getting your dog to brush their teeth

Why not let your dog look after their dental health while having fun?! 

Providing your pet with natural chews and toys that have been designed to improve dental health will also help control plaque and tartar build-up. However, try to avoid hard chews, bone and stones that can splinter or wear down or break teeth.

Cover for dental treatment

Dogs insured with an Agria Pet Insurance policy have unlimited cover for dental treatment, providing the cost falls within the annual vets’ fees limit of up to £12,500. Treatment required for dental disease and accidents is covered, providing a dental check has been carried out within the previous 12 months, and any treatment recommended by the vet has been carried out within 3 months of the advice. Click here for full details.

If you have an Agria Pet Insurance policy, you can access the free Pet Health Helpline, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The veterinary-trained team will advise on any concerns or queries that you may have over your pet’s health – much like the NHS 111 service for people. Call free on 03333 32 19 47.