A recent study conducted by Hartpury University in Gloucestershire sheds light on the importance of dental health in dogs and the under-utilization of homecare products by dog owners in the UK. The research reveals that a lack of awareness and education contributes to low compliance with dental care routines, leading to prevalent periodontal disease among dogs and its adverse effects on their health and well-being.

The study, which used a questionnaire to gauge dog owners’ awareness and utilization of dental homecare products, calls for veterinary professionals to develop strategies to promote the adoption of dental care practices at home. Out of 422 participants surveyed, a meager 4% reported using a toothbrush daily, while a concerning 50.9% had never attempted toothbrushing, and a staggering 92% had never used dog toothpaste.

Furthermore, the research showed that only 46.9% of respondents had ever been recommended to brush or clean their dog’s teeth by a veterinary practice. Veterinary surgeons played the most significant role in issuing such recommendations, with 47.4% stating they received advice from a surgeon, 22.5% from a veterinary nurse, and 24.9% from both. This highlights the need for more proactive involvement from veterinary professionals in educating dog owners about dental care.

The study also revealed that 25.7% of respondents found inspecting their dogs’ teeth to be difficult, primarily due to canine behavioral reasons. When asked about the key factors contributing to good dental health in dogs, 33.7% of owners rated toothbrushing as very important, while only 39.7% considered special dental dog food to be of minor importance.

Based on the findings, Hartpury University recommends that veterinary professionals seize opportunities during various appointments to provide owner education and animal training. Annual boosters, health checks, veterinary nurse-led clinics, and puppy clinics present crucial occasions for educating owners and habituating young animals to dental care routines, thereby reducing potential behavioral obstacles to toothbrushing in the future.

The study emphasizes the significance of written information and practical demonstrations in addition to verbal instructions from veterinary professionals to enhance owner recall and compliance with dental care practices. Encouraging early and sufficient training is also essential to improve both the acceptance of dental procedures by dogs and the efficiency of owners in maintaining dental homecare.

Carol Gray BVMS MA PhD MRCVS, Principal Lecturer in Veterinary Nursing at Hartpury University and one of the research authors, underlines the need for increased awareness and performance of dental homecare to prevent periodontal disease in dogs. She urges veterinary professionals to take an active role in educating dog owners and emphasizes the potential impact on reducing invasive dental procedures.

The research conducted by Hartpury University, recognized as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’ as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 process, highlights the university’s dedication to advancing veterinary knowledge and improving animal welfare. This study offers valuable insights for the industry to make a meaningful difference in promoting canine dental health through increased awareness and homecare practices.