Tartar in dogs

Like humans, dogs are prone to oral problems, including tartar. Far from being only an aesthetic problem, tartar is a real health problem. The consequences can be bothersome and it is therefore important to take this problem seriously. Tartar in dogs is a serious problem.

Tartar can affect all dogs, although certain breeds are predisposed, particularly small breeds. They include yorkshires, poodles, shih-tzu, Pekingese, bichons in particular. Dogs eating food in the form of mash or household rations are also at greater risk.

Causes and formation of tartar

Tartar forms from dental plaque. Dental plaque consists of food debris, saliva deposits and bacteria that form at the base of the teeth. It is presented in the form of a whitish film, even yellow or orange, being deposited at the base of the teeth, at the limit with the gum.

It usually starts on the molars and premolars, then continues on the canines and incisors.

Gradually, dental plaque mineralizes, leading to the formation of tartar. It comes in the form of limestone-like plaques that are thicker than dental plaque. It is often darker than dental plaque and associates with a more or less pronounced foul odor.

Symptoms of tartar in dogs

The presence of tartar is first associated with bacterial proliferation and more or less pronounced bad breath. Beyond that, tartar can be responsible for other more annoying symptoms. Apart from the visible part on the teeth, tartar also develops under the gums.

It begins by causing gingivitis manifested by the presence of a red border at the base of the gum tissue.

As this gets worse, the gum tissue becomes more inflamed and may or may not have bleeding associated with pain when chewing. It can even develop into infections or abscesses.

Gradually, the teeth loosen, which can be masked by the presence of tartar.

In addition, bacteria that proliferate in the mouth can spread when they contaminate the blood. And, it leads to the formation of infections or abscesses in other locations in the body (liver, heart).

Tartar in dogs


The diagnosis does not pose any particular difficulty insofar as the tartar is observed directly on the teeth. It is important to take a good look at all the teeth, especially those at the back. Because, tartar forms there first. The absence of tartar on the front teeth does not mean that your dog does not have it.

During the examination, the vet will be able to tell you what stage your dog is at: is it dental plaque or tartar? Is there gingivitis or other larger issues already associated? What is the recommended treatment based on these elements?

If your dog’s condition warrants it, he may consider treatment under general anesthesia.

He can then complete his clinical examination with a pre-anesthetic examination. This examination is for the verifying that your dog does not present any contraindication to anesthesia.

Treatment of tartar in dogs

The treatment of choice for tartar is descaling. It is the only way to remove tartar once it has formed. It must be performed under general anesthesia to be able to be performed in good conditions, painlessly and thoroughly. To do this, the vet uses an ultrasound machine to loosen the tartar plaques on the teeth and under the gums.

Sometimes teeth will need to be extracted during scaling. It is not the descaling itself that is responsible for this. But, it helps reveal it once the tartar is removed. A loose tooth must be removed because it can represent a focus of infection.

In addition, if it does not hold well, it will get worse and reoperation may be necessary soon after.

It is therefore preferable to remove them so that your dog’s mouth is as healthy as possible. The vet may prescribe an antibiotic treatment after the descaling. He may even have you start it before descaling in some cases.

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Prevention of tartar in dogs

Some dogs get tartar faster than others. In predisposed breeds, some will need dental care even when young. Whether after a scaling, or before starting to have dental problems, preventive measures are always interesting to avoid or delay the onset of problems.

Different prevention measures are possible:

  • Food is the first promoting or protective factor. Dry food in the form of croquettes is indeed preferable. Not only does it produce less deposits that can be the cause of dental plaque. But, the fact of chewing produces an abrasive action on the teeth preventing its formation. There are even croquettes specially designed to delay the formation of tartar.
  • Brushing of teeth is possible in dogs. There are special toothpastes that are palatable for dogs, as well as brushes or finger cots. If you get used to it early, your dog may fall for this type of care.
  • Some dog treats are designed to prevent tartar build-up due to their composition and consistency. However, be careful with the quality of these products. Because, they can also have the opposite effect if they are not of good quality.
  • Other types of preventative treatments exist. They are present in the form of tablets, powders or liquids, to add in the food or in the drinking water of your dog; in all cases, seek advice from your veterinarian. He will be able to advise you on the products best suited to your dog and his lifestyle.