Keeping on Top of Dental Hygiene: A Blog by Simon Gower, GBGB Veterinary Director
Like all animals, greyhounds can suffer from serious health problems as a result of dental disease. As well as causing pain, poor dental health results in high numbers of bacteria in the mouth which can cause additional problems in other systems such as the heart and the kidneys. There is also a possibility that chronic mouth infections may be linked with tonsillitis which will most likely also affect a greyhound’s performance.
In my previous blog I shared some thoughts on how I look after my retired racer, Pugly. He is 11 years old and occasionally, when he breathes in my direction, there is a hint of dog-breath!
Bad breath is often the first sign that all is not well in his mouth. When Pugly arrived with me, he wasn’t that keen on having his mouth examined. It took some patience over a few days to gain his confidence, but we got there in the end. Slow and steady is always best; it isn’t worth a fight – not for you or your dog.
My trusted method is a little smear of Bovril or Marmite on my finger which works every time. Once the greyhound is licking your finger just lift the cheek and have a look at the front teeth. By day two or three you should be able to check even the back teeth.
Normal healthy teeth are pearly white, and the gums should be pink with no reddening or bleeding.
A build-up of tartar, or calculus, on the teeth starts with a film of bacteria and food particles on the tooth surface which develops and hardens over time. Spot this early and you can avoid a trip to the vets. Ignore it and dental disease and the other associated health risks are on the cards.
A build-up of calculus will inflame the gums and cause the gums to recede. If this exposes the root of the tooth then this can be extremely painful for your dog. This definitely requires prompt veterinary attention. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure and there are plenty of tips to keep dogs’ teeth in prime condition.
Starting at an early age if possible, condition all dogs to have their mouth examined and get them used to gentle brushing. Maintaining good dental health through regular teeth brushing, together with other methods will help to ensure that teeth and gums remain healthy throughout a greyhound’s life.
Special dog toothbrushes are available. I prefer the finger brushes, but a human toothbrush is just as effective. Always use a dog toothpaste and aim to brush for 1-2 minutes per day. There is a helpful video to get you started available here.
Another tip is to encourage chewing from weaning onwards. The act of chewing will help to clean the teeth and can dislodge calculus. I use a combination of dental chews, rawhides and cooked beef knuckle bones that are wonderful and gnarly and don’t splinter. Whole raw carrots are very good teeth cleaners and can be included in greyhounds’ usual feed.
If your greyhounds live as pairs then I would recommend separating them when you introduce a chew or a bone as a fight may break out even between the best of friends.
So, to summarise how to keep your greyhounds’ teeth in tip-top shape and save on costly veterinary dental bills, follow these simple steps, and remember prevention is best:
- Create opportunities for vigorous chewing from the youngest possible age;
- Train all dogs from a young age to accept mouth examinations;
- Check your dogs’ teeth regularly, once a week as a guide;
- Brush your dogs’ teeth, start slowly to build trust.
- Feed an appropriate diet, maybe add the odd raw carrot
- Seek prompt veterinary attention for stubborn calculus or gingivitis.
Follow #GreyhoundDentalHealth for more advice and tips for caring for your greyhound’s teeth.