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Tooth Tartar Issues in Dogs

Find answers to your tooth tartar questions

Does your dog suffer with tooth tartar problems?

Find the answers to all your questions regarding tooth tartar in dogs and if in doubt, get in touch with our nutritionists.

Tooth tartar and periodontal disease

Periodontal means “relating to tissues or regions around the teeth.” Periodontal Disease is the most common illness affecting pets, and more prevalent than excessive weight gain.

Surveys show that between 60 and 80% of both dogs and cats are affected. Many pets do not show obvious signs of discomfort although they must be suffering.


Periodontal disease causes bad breath, inflammation, bleeding and erosion of the gums, eventually leading to loosening and loss of the teeth. As well as affecting the mouth area, periodontal disease can damage other body systems. In humans, periodontal disease is linked to arthritis, cardiovascular disease, stress and anxiety, obesity, diabetes and stroke. In pets, links are now being made to diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease. Bacteria and toxins can enter the bloodstream from the mouth and cause generalised inflammation, especially when animals are suffering from other ailments or have defective immune systems.

In a healthy individual, saliva from the salivary glands and gums, lubricates and protects the mouth. If conditions are not optimal, saliva forms dental plaque, a sticky and persistent coating which encourages bacterial proliferation and deposition of mineral salts of calcium and phosphorus to form dental tartar (calculus).

What causes unhealthy saliva and periodontal disease?

Build-up of toxic waste products in the system, in my opinion, as with many other disease conditions, is the underlying cause of periodontal disease. Production of waste (toxins) is a normal part of the metabolic process. If this is excessive due to poor quality food, overfeeding (even high quality food), excessive levels of protein & fat, or chemicals in the diet, these wastes accumulate in the organ systems and body fluids, including the saliva. You can read more about how toxins damage health in my Veterinary Guide to Natural Healthcare.

Food allergy/intolerance may also cause inflammation which increases the toxic burden, so it is important to feed a more natural, hypoallergenic diet, free from colourings and other chemicals. You can read more about food allergy/intolerance in my Veterinary Guide to Natural Healthcare.

How can diet help?

A diet using simple, wholesome natural foods, that is high in complex carbohydrates (typically wholegrains), will minimise the amount of pollution in the system. You should avoid additives (other than essential vitamins and minerals) and look for a diet low in fat and protein, both of which produce more waste than complex carbohydrate. A diet that is hypoallergenic would also be beneficial as it is unlikely to cause allergic reaction. All of these characteristics help to avoid the accumulation of toxic waste in the saliva.

What about other methods of keeping the teeth clean?

Brushing the teeth and specialist abrasive foods which are claimed to prevent dental tartar may have some beneficial effect but they do not tackle the real base cause of tooth tartar and gum disease. Freeing the system of toxic waste by following a natural diet will ensure clean saliva and a healthy mouth as well as all-round health and vitality throughout the body.

Overfeeding contributes to the toxic burden so must be avoided. Recommended feeding amounts should be treated with caution as every dog has individual needs. Weighing the food each time is more accurate and effective than going by eye.

Many pet owners believe that they cannot be overfeeding as their pet is not overweight. Very often that is not correct; waste products can accumulate in the system of a dog which is of normal weight.

Speak to a Pet Nutritionist

Get in touch with the Burns Health and Nutrition Team for individually tailored advice on the right food type and amounts for your dog. At Burns we work to address pet health conditions brought about by unhealthy lifestyle and especially diet. Drawing on the link between health and nutrition, we developed dry pet food that offers the same benefits for your favourite furry friend as simple homecooked food.

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