Why it is important to keep on top
of your dog’s oral health

by Kelly Moran

big-dog-teeth • Prevent Disease: Bacteria found in the mouth can travel through the blood stream and cause kidney and heart disease, as well as blood infections, which can be deadly.

• Preserve Teeth: If not removed from the teeth, plaque and calculus will cause gingival tissue recession. This will eventually lead to jaw bone deterioration and loose teeth.

• Avoid Pain: Neglected oral health often causes extremely painful dental problems. Dogs do not usually show obvious symptoms of oral pain until the problem has become severe. Unfortunately, this means many dogs suffer for quite some time before the issue is noticed.


About non-anaesthetic teeth cleaning

• Provides scaling of the crown (visible) tooth surfaces.

• Scaling and polishing is performed both on the inner and outer surfaces of all 42 teeth in the dog’s mouth.

• Can be performed on most dogs as preventive maintenance

• Can be done gently without restraints or over-stressing the dog


Which type of cleaning is right for your dog?

Non-anaesthetic teeth cleanings are recommended for

• Dogs with healthy teeth and gums

• Dogs that cannot undergo anaesthetic for health reasons

• Extending time between veterinary cleanings

A dog with health conditions should be seen by a veterinarian prior to a non-anaesthetic teeth cleaning as they may require medication before and after their cleaning.

Veterinary dental cleanings are recommended for

• Dogs that have loose, infected or broken teeth

• Cases where calculus buildup has progressed below the gum line

• Dogs that are aggressive or too difficult to safely clean while awake

If your dog’s mouth has become diseased and they require a veterinary dental, it is recommended that a veterinarian with a proper dental x-ray machine be used. Dental x-rays are very helpful in detecting problems below the gum line that cannot be seen otherwise. They can also help in determining if teeth need to be extracted.


Which company to choose

Not all non-anaesthetic teeth cleanings companies are the same. It is important to use someone who has had the appropriate training.

Some good questions to ask

• How long was your training? There are courses that are offered over only 1 or 2 days. Non-anaesthetic teeth cleaning is a very difficult skill to learn and generally takes quite some time to master.

• Did your training teach about health concerns and common oral problems? Although professionals in the non-anaesthetic teeth cleaning industry are not permitted to diagnose any medical conditions, it is important that they are able to recognize when to not work on a dog. Performing non-anaesthetic teeth cleaning on a dog that has certain oral or general health conditions can be dangerous and even life threatening to the dog.

• Do you clean all of the surfaces of every tooth? Many companies only scale the outer sides of the teeth. This may look like a complete job to the dog’s owner, but it is not a proper job. A complete cleaning will include scaling of the outer, inner and biting surfaces of every tooth, as well as scaling between the teeth.


When to get a cleaning

If you notice bad breath or yellow, brown or black buildup on your dog’s teeth, it’s time for a cleaning. If the buildup is not removed regularly, your dog can develop painful and serious health problems. Cleanings are usually recommended every 6 to 12 months.


What to do between teeth cleanings

• Brushing your dog’s teeth is the most efficient way to help reduce plaque and calculus buildup between cleanings. You can use a soft toothbrush or just a gauze or small cloth around your finger.

• Feed a healthy diet. The food your dog eats can greatly contribute to their oral and overall health. Canned food can be very sticky and cause excessive plaque in the mouth. Dry dog food is less sticky than canned, but it is often filled with starches, which are also not great for the teeth. If you feed dry or canned dog food choose a brand with high quality ingredients and little to no grains. Raw food is the most natural diet for a dog. Although dogs on raw diet still develop plaque and calculus, they often have much healthier teeth and gums. Make sure to do your research and talk to a qualified professional before starting a raw diet to make sure your dog is getting all their required nutrients.

• Use dental products. There are many sprays, gels and supplements available for reducing bacteria and plaque in the mouth. If used daily, these products can help keep your dog’s mouth fresh and reduce buildup between cleanings. Look for ingredients that do not include sugars or xylitol. It is best to stick with ingredients that are natural and that you can pronounce.


Kelly Moran Bio:

Certified Canine Oral Hygiene Specialist, Kelly Moran has a passion for dogs. As the owner of Wags K-9 Teeth Cleaning, she has been specializing in canine oral care without anaesthetic for over 9 years. While working in a veterinary office and witnessing countless dogs overcome by the devastating effects of oral disease, Kelly was inspired to provide a less invasive and cost efficient solution. Wags K-9 Teeth Cleaning offers a sedation-free option for concerned and caring pet owners and has offices throughout the Lower Mainland, as well as mobile service. 

Too much of a Good Thing:
How Freedom Affects Your Puppy

by Lisa Kerley

A classic conversation that I have with new clients goes something like this:

Client: “Mitzy is SO smart. She’s only 12 weeks and she already knows how to sit.”
Lisa: “That’s great. Puppies’ brains are little learning magnets!”
Feeling encouraged by my response, the client continues: “She hasn’t had any more accidents in the house so she doesn’t need her crate anymore.”
Lisa: “Really? (Eyebrows are raised, at this point).
Client: “No. And at night she’s more settled out of it, so we just let her sleep on the bed.
That way we don’t need to get up at all!”
Lisa: Silence.


So if a pup’s not having accidents or tearing the house apart, what’s the problem with giving them freedom? In the short term it may seem easier or kinder to just let a puppy have what they want. Whether the puppy has the maturity or skill to handle it, this approach of easy freedom early in a dog’s life takes away the opportunity to teach some very important skills – tolerance, impulse control and patience, along with developing confidence.

Consider a child that has always gotten whatever she wants, when she wants it. Experience has taught her to expect it this way, so the skills required to ask for things appropriately and deal with not getting them quickly enough have not been learned. Yikes – that’s a scary thought!

Dogs that get to decide how things happen – having free run of the house, choosing when they want your company or when they want to be alone, are in the same situation. They are used to getting immediate gratification, and as a result, have a hard time coping with not getting their way or being asked to follow through with things they don’t want to do. They will be intolerant of being denied what they want – responding with frustration, anger or stress. Not the best plan for developing patience and tolerance, is it? These are skills that must be learned, and are just as vital for our dogs as they are for our children.

But what’s too much freedom got to do with your puppy’s confidence? By leaving a pup to make choices with too many options, they are being put in situations beyond their learning or skill set. Without proper direction or support, they are forced to deal with things and face challenges on their own. Even in the safety of their own home, dogs with too much freedom often begin patrolling the environment. They will react to noises outside, people passing by, and even the mailman.

Although teaching impulse control, tolerance, and developing confidence takes time and effort, the benefits to your pup are huge. Dogs that possess these skills are typically calmer and more manageable even before any additional training takes place. As a bonus, you will also be teaching them to be comfortable in a crate, be on their own and walk politely on leash. How cool is that!


Being Comfortable in a Crate

Many people don’t plan on including the crate as part of their adult dog’s routine. However, keeping your dog comfortable with it through regular use will equip you for many of life’s unforeseen situations – medical emergencies, transport, moving, renovating. These are all stressful to the dog – there’s no need to compound their anxiety by putting them in a crate for the first time in a year.

Having a secure, safe place for your dog that can go anywhere will also allow you more options and flexibility. Your dog will be welcome at more social engagements and facilities if they can be comfortably crated. This will allow you to take them more places and include them in more aspects of your life.


Lessons: Many pups are happy to sleep in their crate at night. Some can even handle being in the crate for periods during the day, if the house is empty. Being willing to settle there when the house is more active, is a different matter however. Their first steps in this training need to be very easy so they can be successful. Ensure your pup always has something great to keep them busy for the duration of their crate time – a beef chew or Kong, for example. Make sure you provide something really special, that your puppy LOVES and save it for these crate sessions. Start with short sessions – even as little as 5 minutes and practice while the environment is calm. Gradually work your pup up to where they can calmly hang out in their crate while things are happening that are hard to resist – such as when you’re prepping meals, lounging nearby on the floor or the kids are playing.

Being on Their Own

Having a dog that cannot be left alone will affect almost every aspect of your life. It will restrict how long you can leave home, and can impact even the simplest daily activities. Many dogs intolerant of being left will be destructive. Finding safe solutions can be challenging and costly. For many, the only option is providing nearly continual care via babysitters, walkers or daycares. Going out for dinner won’t simply be a matter of getting restaurant reservations.

Lessons: Continual access to you while you’re at home won’t give your puppy the skills they need to be on their own. Having your puppy regularly spending time in their crate while you’re at home, will also be setting them up to spend time alone when you have to be away. No matter what your hectic day entails, you can create a basic routine that the little puppy can get used to – something that they can rely on. With this consistency, they will learn to accept periods on their own as positive and normal.
Some puppies will wander off to a quiet place on their own. This is not the same as crate time. The point is to help your pup become comfortable with being put away and being on their own when it is NOT their idea. All gentle examples of direction from you will help your puppy develop tolerance. Short, regular sessions in their crate throughout the day will help your puppy accept imposed down time.
Although we have used the crate as an example (because of its usefulness outside the home), these lessons can also be taught using a pen, containment area or tether. Even using a safety harness in the car counts! Finding as many opportunities to practice these foundation skills will improve your dog’s ability and make things easier in the long run.

Leash Skills

Having a dog that walks calmly and politely on leash is one of the joys of sharing our lives together. Developing good leash skills also has value to your dog’s well being. There is increasing evidence that a dog pulling while on a collar can be detrimental to their health. Additionally, poor leash skills result in unruly approaches, pass-bys and greetings. These in turn can develop into frustration behaviour, and escalate to leash aggression in maturing dogs. With many areas now requiring dogs be leashed, it is a must-have skill.


Lessons: Dogs get into the habit of pulling because we allow it to work for them. As a result, any slow downs or impediments to reaching things of interest become a frustration. Instead, you can show your pup that displaying some patience and impulse control will get them what they want. When you approach something attractive, stop at a small distance away and wait for your puppy to settle. This delay can be frustrating to your pup, but you will be helping them develop tolerance and be able to reward calm behavior.
By consistently providing this space and pause, you will allow your pup to check out potentially worrisome things safely and comfortably. Following this protocol will help to prevent reactivity.

All these lessons are best started with a young puppy. This is much easier than changing game plans later on, when a lack of these skills requires more intense and time-consuming (and expensive!) remedial training to occur.


By helping your pup develop these skills, you will be giving them the foundation that will make training much easier and allow them to progress faster than dogs without them. Instead of becoming over-excited, frustrated and unable to focus, they will be in a state where they are ready and able to learn. They will be in a ‘thinking brain’ rather than an excited, reactive state and they will be able to take direction from you more easily. All of these will ultimately help them to make good choices and decisions. Possession of these skills can help prevent many common behavior problems from developing. As an extra benefit (as if any more are needed!), you will also be giving your dog the skills and confidence to go almost anywhere, allowing you to share more of your life together.