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Dental advice for your dog

Dental disease is one of the most common problems among pets, according to the RSPCA – which is why dogs need oral care as much as we do.

In the UK people love their pets but as much as you can look after a pet, there are some silent problems that are often overlooked. As a vet in my consulting room without a doubt one of the most common things people overlook his mouth and teeth. It's important to pay attention to these areas, to explore them if you like, and one of the best ways to do that is by regular brushing and examination ofyour your pet's teeth gums and mouth.

In fact new research has found that unbelievably 50% of all dogs have never had their teeth brushed. Daily brushing means daily examining to pick up problems early. So by keeping your pet's teeth clean, you're actually prolonging its life and actually making sure it's happy and healthy.

Now contrary to popular belief brushing your pets teeth is actually really easy and fun. All you need is some special toothbrushes, you need pet-friendly toothpaste and then you start brushing their teeth. They like it, it's a bonding experience, you can have fun with it and because it tastes nice, it's actually a treat as well. And in the long run it's gonna save you loads on vet bills.

The main reasons people don't brush their pet's teeth is because a lot of them don't realize they need to; they have perhaps had a negative experience with brushing maybe once or twice and given up; people think that just supplying a chew toy or chew stick is enough, it's an alternative - it's not. So many pet owners think it's normal for their pet to have bad breath, well it isn't, because bad breath is often a sign of gum disease and gum disease is really common. And not only is it common, it's incredibly painful; it's a chronic problem so it can go on for years; it's expensive to treat and the most important thing to remember: it's totally preventable.

If you're worried about your pet's teeth, call your vet. It's quite simple. And really, choose an insurance policy for your pet that includes dental treatment. It couldn't really be simpler.


Oral hygiene for hounds

An adult dog will develop 42 permanent teeth and, without dental care, can suffer from all kinds of tooth and gum problems. As dogs can’t brush their own teeth – and count chewing rocks, sticks and other hard objects among their hobbies – it’s no wonder they get tooth trouble. A routine check of a dog’s teeth and gums performed by its owner is the best way to prevent serious problems. Experts suggest that owners take a regular look inside their pet’s mouth to try to spot anything unusual. While you’re there, see if anything smells out of sorts too – ‘dog breath’ is generally down to poor dental hygiene. If you do see signs of broken teeth, decay or inflammation, make an appointment with your vet for a dental check-up.

Tooth decay

Loose teeth, sore or infected gums and rotting tooth sockets can all occur in dogs with poor dental care. Bad breath can be due to bacteria from decaying food, which can cause infection. Inflamed, red or bleeding gums (or gingivitis) can be brought on by bacteria from food left around the teeth, while plaque can build up and harden over teeth. The good news is a look inside your dog’s mouth is all it takes to spot signs of decay. Owners are also advised to check around the outside of their pet’s face – look for a swollen jaw or a lump on the lower or upper jaw, which could be an abscess. Other symptoms that your dog has tooth trouble include gulping down food, excessive drooling or problems chewing – all tell-tale signs of wobbly or missing teeth – while sneezing and nasal discharge could indicate gum disease or abscesses on their upper jaw. Rotting or infected teeth and gums will be painful for your pet and prevent them breaking up their food to eat, so it’s important to spot the symptoms and see your vet.


It is possible to prevent your dog’s dental decline. Vets suggest giving dental chews or rawhide chews as treats, or letting your pup or pooch play with chew toys, all of which will get them exercising their teeth. Another way to avoid decay is to brush your dog’s teeth daily; special toothbrushes or finger-glove brushes can be bought in most veterinary clinics or pet shops, along with dog-friendly toothpastes (you can even find meat-flavoured paste). Just don’t use your own minty-fresh brand – it’s not for dogs and can harm their digestion. Frequently brushing your pet’s teeth will help keep teeth and gums in tip-top condition, keep tartar at bay and cavities under control – you may even get a whiff of decent doggy breath, too.


Few of us enjoy a trip to the dentist and your dog will be no exception – but doing so could just save his gnashers. Taking your four-legged friend to the vet for a thorough tooth clean is the only way to cure dental disease. Leaving it untreated can lead to tooth loss and damaging bacteria can even travel through the body to affect vital organs. Typically, vets will place your pooch under anaesthetic and the treatment will include taking an X-ray of their teeth to spot any deep-rooted issues that you can’t see – such as abscesses or deteriorating bones. A teeth scrape will rid them of any plaque, while a gentle probe of the gums will identify any infection. In short, it’s much like a clean at your own dentist! A vet will also be able to spot any rotten or loose teeth that should be removed. Once cleaned from root to tip, your dog will be woken from its anaesthetic and usually able to head home the same day – no doubt smiling from ear to ear.

Expert advice available 24/7

vetfone™ is a 24/7 helpline that provides expert advice from nurses qualified with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. If your pet has a medical emergency, or you need reassurance on grooming, feeding or general advice, vetfone™ is there to help. vetfone™ is provided at no additional cost with all Tesco Bank Pet Insurance policies.

You can call the vetfone™ freephone* number on 0800 197 4949. *Standard network charges apply. Mobiles may be higher. Please check with your operator.

Important information


Tesco Bank Pet Insurance is arranged, administered and underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc.

Vetfone™ is provided by Vetsdirect Ltd.