Kerri was just three years old when Molly arrived in her life as a puppy. Kerri was so young that she finds this difficult to remember, but she was the one who chose Molly’s name, and the two of them have since grown up together. These days Kerri is clear that Molly is her best friend, and they spend several hours a day playing together. Kerri takes Molly for a walk in the park for an hour twice daily, where they are well known to other people walking their dogs. Molly is a calm, good-natured dog who gets on well with every person and animal that she meets. Her tail is always wagging. Kerri often pets and hugs her, and Molly has never growled at her nor shown any sign of unfriendliness. There is just one area of mild disagreement: tooth brushing.
Kerri is very particular about looking after Molly’s appearance. She brushes Molly’s coat several times a week, teasing out matted fur and putting it out in the garden for the local wild birds to use to line their nests. Kerri also knows that it’s important to look after Molly’s dental health, but when it comes to the important process of tooth brushing, things get more complicated.
The subject of Molly’s dental health came up recently when she was brought to me for her annual check up and vaccination. Molly is a typical middle aged dog: her teeth are beginning to loosen and fall out because of tooth and gum disease, but the family hadn’t realised that this was happening. It’s all hidden behind Molly’s lips, and unless you open her mouth and have a close look, it’s easy not to notice. Research shows that 4 out of 5 dogs over the age of three have dental disease yet 90% of owners rate their own dog’s teeth and gums as good or perfect.
When I pointed this out to Kerri and her family, they decided that it was time to start brushing Molly’s teeth. They bought a toothbrush and some special meat-flavoured dog toothpaste, and they asked the little dog to sit still while they brushed her teeth. They started slowly and gently, to try to get her used to the idea, but she made it clear that she didn’t like it, shaking her head and refusing to sit still. When I saw them again, they asked me if there was any alternative way to keep her teeth clean.
There’s no doubt that tooth-brushing is the gold standard of doggy dental care: it’s the most effective way to prevent the build up of plaque and tartar that leads to dental problems. But many dog owners find it difficult to brush their pets’ teeth every day. The next best answer is to give a dog a regular dental chew that has been designed to “automatically” clean a dog’s teeth. The latest version of this type of product is the Pedigree Dentaflex chew. It’s bigger and longer lasting than previously available versions, and a dog like Molly only needs to be given one twice weekly to obtain a useful level of tooth cleaning. Like many dogs, Molly needs to watch her waistline, so Kerri knows that she has to reduce her daily food intake slightly to take account of the extra calories contained in the Dentaflex chew.
Molly loves munching her way through her dental treat, and Kerri’s happy too. She knows that Molly’s teeth will be cleaner and healthier without the daily battle over tooth brushing.
- Dental hygiene is an important and often neglected aspect of pet care
- Tooth brushing is the best way to keep a dog’s teeth healthy
- Specially designed dental chews are ideal if a dog won’t allow their teeth to be brushed