Dental disease is one of the most common health problems experienced by dogs but often remains unrecognised by owners as a major welfare issue. The latest research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) reveals just how common dental disease is in dogs and highlights which dog breeds in the UK are most prone to this disorder.
Sadly, dental disease should be a concern to all dog owners for two reasons. Firstly, it is extremely common. Secondly, the associated pain from sore teeth and gums is often severe and can last for weeks, or even months. Bad teeth and gums can also lead to other serious problems in dogs, including kidney and heart disease. However, when it comes to alerting their owners about being in pain, dogs can be their own worst enemies because they will often continue to eat, and therefore mask the severity of the problem. This new research from the RVC aims to help improve awareness of both the frequency of dental issues in dogs, as well as which breeds are most susceptible, helping owners to spot dental problems earlier and seek the appropriate veterinary care.
The study was led by the RVC’s VetCompass Programme and is the largest ever study to use anonymised veterinary health records to explore dental disease in dogs. The study included 22,333 dogs that were followed for a year to identify that 12.5% (2,797 dogs) were affected by dental disease.
Certain breeds were revealed as particularly prone to dental disease. The worst affected breeds include Toy Poodles, King Charles Spaniels, Greyhounds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Flat-faced (brachycephalic) dogs and spaniel breeds overall were at greater risk of dental disease. Smaller sized breeds had higher risks of dental disease than heavier breeds. The research also shows that the risk of dental disease increases rapidly as dogs age.
This RVC information offers new hope to dogs and their owners. Awareness of the scale of dental issues can encourage dog owners to take action and provide good dental care to their dogs from a young age. Daily tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste can prevent or reduce the severity of future dental disease. This is especially important for those dog breeds identified at high-risk of dental disease in this study. Understanding which breeds are most at risk will also allow veterinarians to target diagnostic and therapeutic protocols towards the high priority types and ages of dogs.
Key results from the study include:
- One in every 8 dogs (12.5%) overall suffers from dental disease every year.
- Eighteen breeds showed increased risk of dental disease compared with crossbred dogs. The breeds with the highest risk included Toy Poodle (x 3.97), King Charles Spaniel (x 2.63), Greyhound (x 2.58) and Cavalier King Charles spaniel (x 2.39).
- Four breeds showed reduced risk of dental disease compared with crossbred dogs: German Shepherd Dog (x 0.25), French Bulldog (x 0.43), Staffordshire Bull Terrier (x 0.45) and Labrador Retriever (x 0.49).
- Flat-faced (brachycephalic) breeds overall had 1.25 times the risk of dental disease compared with breeds with medium-length (mesocephalic) skulls.
- Spaniel breeds overall had 1.63 times the risk of dental disease compared with non-spaniel breeds.
- Smaller dogs were at had greater risk of dental disease: dogs weighing < 10.0kg had 3.07 times the risk compared with dogs weighing 30.0 - < 40.0 kg.
- Aging was strongly associated with increased risk of dental disease, with dogs aged ≥ 12 years at 3.91 times the risk compared with dogs aged 2 to < 4.
Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and lead author of the paper, said:
“This research shows how much hidden misery our dogs often suffer from dental disease. Ask your vet to give you an update on the dental health of your dog at every visit. Be dental aware, and your dog will thank you.”
Claire Mitchell, co-author and Academic Leader in Science & Engineering at the University of Nottingham International College, said:
“This work represents an important step forward for dog dental health. Much other research links the head-shape of flat-faced dogs to other problems, so it makes sense that dental health would also be affected. It’s also really useful to know which breeds are more prone to dental disease. Hopefully we can now improve welfare for these dogs.”
Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, commented:
“This large study, partly funded by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust as part of our mission to make a difference for dogs, will hopefully enable more owners to spot the signs of dental issues in dogs and to seek the appropriate care from their vet. Unlike humans, dogs will not complain when they suffer from tooth problems and these can then become chronic for our four-legged friends, so it’s crucial more owners become aware of the signs and take steps to help their dog.
“This research shows that this common problem is caused by a number of factors and underlines why it’s important for owners to take preventative steps, make dental care part of their routine canine care and never ignore early warning signs of dental disease, such as bad breath.”
Notes to Editors
O’Neill et al. (2021) “Epidemiology of periodontal disease in dogs in the UK primary-care veterinary setting”, Journal of Small Animal Practice. The full paper will be available from 01:00 on 10th August and will be accessible here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/17485827 The DOI is: 10.1111/jsap.13405
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About the RVC
- The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is the UK's largest and longest established independent veterinary school and is a Member Institution of the University of London. It was the first in the world to hold full accreditation from AVMA, EAEVE, RCVS and AVBC.
- The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in line with the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2021.
- The RVC offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing and biological sciences.
- In 2017, the RVC received a Gold award from the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) – the highest rating a university can receive.
- A research led institution with 79% of its research rated as internationally excellent or world class in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
- The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire.