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When your best friend lunges for a big hug, does the smell of their breath knock you flat on your back? If this is true it's time for a dental checkup. A dental check up may highlight the need for cleaning, polishing, tooth extraction or even just a change in diet. Remember, your pet will look and function better and also live longer with healthy teeth and gums.


Plaque is an invisible bacterial coating that forms on the teeth within a few hours after a meal explained Dr Haley from the Warwick Veterinary Clinic. Within 24 hours, plaque starts to harden into calculus or tartar. Tartar is harmful in two ways. Dr Haley says, first, it serves as a place where bacteria can reside and multiply in the mouth. There is substantial scientific evidence that bacteria from tartar get into the blood stream and are deposited in various organs.  Heart and kidney disease may result.  Second, tartar builds up at the gum line.  As the tartar deposit gets larger, it pushes the gums away from the roots of the teeth. Eventually, the teeth will loosen and fall out.

To prevent tartar build up there are some things which pet owners can do,

  1. Feed your dog a raw bone with attached meat and connective tissue at least once weekly.  The type of bone with meat will depend on your dog’s capacity to handle it.  A wide variety of bones may be suitable including whole oxtail, lamb breast or lamb vertebrae, whole rabbits, kangaroo tails, lamb flaps and chicken necks.
  2. Brushing of the teeth is another effective means of removing plaque before it turns into tartar, although this can be difficult with some dogs.  We recommend the use of a toothpaste made especially for dogs.  This needs to be done at least twice weekly (preferably daily), but we know that not all dogs will tolerate it.  Special brushes are made that make this task easier.
  3. Feed your dog a commercial diet specially formulated to reduce tartar buildup.  These have been formulated as a dry food and are composed of large pieces.  Because the pieces are too large to be swallowed whole, your dog must chew them.  These preparations contain fibres that literally scrape the plaque off the teeth without damaging the enamel.  By removing plaque as it forms, tartar formation is greatly diminished.
  4. Scaling and polishing the teeth under an anaesthetic every 6-12 months or at the first sign of tartar buildup can be very beneficial to most dogs.  This will minimise damage to the gums and roots due to gum recession.
  5. Encouraging chewing of bones and chew toys. Dogs which chew more tend to accumulate tartar more slowly.

If you require any further help with your dog’s dental health then please don’t hesitate to call us this month.