Tartar in dogs - What you can do about it

Almost everybody knows it. The yellowish to brownish deposits and discolorations on the teeth of our dogs and how we get rid of them. The hygiene and care of our dogs' teeth is an important aspect of general health. Bad teeth can have serious consequences, so the mouth cavity should be checked regularly.

Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM
Table of contents


Tartar is caused by plaque, which is the residue of food and bacteria that hardens over time. More and more tartar is formed by the plaque that accumulates on them.

You should get your dogs used to the fact that you as owner look at their teeth and mouth cavity from puppy age on. It makes visits to the vet and dental care easier in the future.


Plaque and tartar can occur for various reasons:

  • Genetically conditioned: Unfortunately, there are many breeds of dogs that are extremely prone to tartar despite dental care. However, this is not the fault of the owner, but is race-related. It is mainly the small dog breeds (e.g. Chihuahua, Shi-Tzu or Yorkshire Terrier) that have big problems with it. Because of the too small jaws and the narrow spaces between the teeth, their mouth cavity offers the perfect place for tartar to settle. In addition, the mouth flora of small dog breeds differs greatly from that of larger dogs. This favours the development of tartar.
  • Soft food: Dogs which are fed exclusively with canned food and never really have to chew anything, unfortunately do not have the possibility to clean their teeth mechanically by chewing. In addition, wet food can more easily sit on existing coverings or get stuck in the spaces between them. However, there is no consensus on this aspect. Other studies show that dry food causes more plaque and therefore more tartar.
  • Sugar: Sugar and other ingredients are used in many feeds and treats to make them more attractive to dogs. The owner is pleased that the dog likes it. But the result is caries and plaque.
  • Not enough exercise: If a dog is actively in motion, it usually starts to pant slightly at some point and saliva is increased. Cleaning the teeth with saliva and tongue is an important part of mouth hygiene. The same applies to dogs that drink very little and have a dry mouth. Under these conditions, bacteria can multiply more easily and form plaque.

Symptoms and diagnosis

It's more with one dog, less with another. The cheek-, fangs and canines of the upper jaw are particularly often affected. You should first get a picture of your dog's dentition before you start caring for it. How much tartar does he have? Should the teeth be cleaned professionally?

  • Tooth colour: Your dog's teeth should be mostly white. Slight discoloration may be present in one area or another. But if a brown, thick layer already forms on some teeth, it is an indication that tartar or plaque is forming.
  • Gums: The gums adjacent to the teeth should always be pink. After stress or exertion it is naturally a little darker. If you have teeth with plaque or even tartar, you will notice that the edge of the gums is strongly reddened and irritated. Often it starts bleeding at the slightest touch because it is inflamed by the bacteria that are on the plaque.
  • Smell: If a dog has very strong tartar, it develops an extreme smell from the mouth. Both the plaque on the teeth and the inflammation of the gums smell strong!
  • Problems chewing: Teeth that are in a very bad condition for a long time naturally cause pain in the long run. Therefore affected dogs usually avoid hard food, salivate or refuse to eat at all.
There are many different ways to care for your dog's teeth. First of all, you should assess your dog's teeth together with a vet. Our veterinarians will be happy to look at your four-legged friend's mouth during a video call and advise you on how to proceed.

Often dogs with toothache rub with their paws against the mouth or with their muzzle along furniture. Swelling of the face or nose can also indicate a tooth problem or tartar. In this case it is long time to act!

Therapy and prevention

Even if your dog should already have bad teeth, it is not too late to do something. Here are the 5 most effective options:

  1. Professional dental cleaning: Depending on the condition of your teeth, it is possible that before you can care for them yourself, they may need to be professionally cleaned by a vet. This is done, as with us humans, with an ultrasonic scaler, which effectively removes tartar from the tooth. If such a treatment is carried out, it makes sense to have the teeth polished afterwards. The resulting smooth surface is less prone to plaque.
  2. Brushing teeth: Whether it is after a dental cleaning or to prevent tartar, it is recommended to brush your dogs teeth. Since the diet of dogs today no longer corresponds to that of a wolf, the mechanical cleaning of teeth when chewing prey has also changed. There are many different possibilities on the market, from the Tooth fingerling up to the electronic ultrasonic toothbrush. It is important to use only one intended for dogs Toothpaste to use! Toothpaste for humans contains ingredients that are toxic for dogs. Our veterinarians will be happy to advise you on this.
  3. Chewables: Every dog should get a chewing article 1-2 times a week, with which they clean their teeth properly. The chewing article should of course be appropriate to the size of your dog and not be easy to swallow for greedy dogs. For this purpose, cattle scalp, pig ears or similar products made of dried skin or cartilage are very suitable.
  4. Chew toys: The dog toy department now also offers quite a few dental care products. Begun with Plastic toys with structures, which are to clean the tooth up to the wooden root (from the specialized trade) which removes the lining due to her structure. Here it is to be considered what is interesting for the dog and is also used. Advantage is, the dog is busy without eating.
  5. Dental care products: Besides the mechanical tooth cleaning there are also many other products e.g. our Anti-Plaque Powder, which can be added to the food.
Bad teeth and poor mouth hygiene in dogs can cause long-term consequential damage. The permanent swallowing of the bacteria causes serious damage to the heart!

If you are unsure and would like to learn more about Dr. SAM - just click on the link and you will receive further insights into our work.

Best regards,
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
- Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

Table of contents
Article from
Dr. Christian Dimitriadis
Veterinary surgeon with Dr. SAM

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