Doggy Dental Care: Dental diseases and looking after your dog’s teeth

Dogs can develop dental problems at any age and many over six years of age have some degree of dental disease. Here’s our guide to dental care for dogs and puppies.

Dental disease can be put into three categories:


Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. You can easily see this by the increase in the pinkness of your dog’s gums, especially at the gum line.


Tartar is the accumulation of plaque on the teeth, usually starting at the gum line in conjunction with gingivitis.


Pyorrhoea is the most serious – it’s pus in the mouth, usually between the teeth and the gums. Not only does it cause decay and bad breath, but the bacteria may enter the blood and travel to other parts of the body causing more serious problems. The liver, kidney and heart are commonly affected. We treat these conditions because they are actual infections.

A young girl laughs whilst holding a Shih Tzu - Dental diseases in dogs

Why should I brush my dog’s teeth?

  • Daily removal of plaque is the key to healthy teeth. Unless your dog’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque and eventually tartar will build up at the gum line. Infection then occurs, which loosens and destroys the attachment of the tooth.
  • Brushing your dog’s teeth can be an easy and fun procedure (in some pets). It’s easier to start from puppies as they will get used to it very easily. You need a very soft bristled brush (like a child’s or baby’s toothbrush) and pet toothpaste, which is usually meat flavoured. Do not use human toothpaste as it can be irritating if swallowed and usually pets don’t like that minty freshness much.
  • Consider a dental diet. In dogs that won’t allow tooth brushing, the next best thing is a dental diet that’ll help control plaque build-up.
  • There are many dental chews available and these do help, but be aware that on their own they are sometimes not enough to prevent dental disease.

Why does my pet need a scale and polish under anaesthetic?

Once visible tartar has formed on the gum line, this means that there is disease under the gum as well. This needs to be specially removed. It’s time for a professional cleaning – do not wait.

Anaesthesia is necessary when performing teeth cleaning. It enables cleaning beneath the gum line, gives pain control, and allows a tube to be placed into the windpipe to ensure that bacteria doesn’t get into the lungs.

Did you know that our LifetimeFlex and 365Flex pet insurance policies cover dental treatment as a result of an accident or illness? (so long as your pet is up to date with their yearly dental check-ups and where any work recommended is carried out at your own expense).

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