Teeth and Oral Care 

Being in the human dental field and knowing our LynWood Cavaliers though the years, I am glad to share with you the best Oral Care for Cavaliers and why it is important for their overall health and longevity.  I will show what is effective and some of the nonprofessional and 'too good to be true' remedies.   

Image by Cavalier Matters.  


Periodontal Disease is one of the most common clinical conditions occurring in dogs and is entirely preventable.  By three years of age, most dogs have some evidence of periodontal disease.  Unfortunately, other than bad breath and plaque build up there are very few signs of the disease process evident to the owner.  Due to this, professional cleaning and periodontal therapy often comes too late to prevent extensive disease or to save teeth.  Periodontal disease in dogs is usually under-treated and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity. The buildup of bacteria can progress into the bloodstream and cause damage to internal organs including heart disease in dogs as they age.  This is particularly so with Cavaliers are already predisposed to cardiac issues.  It is not uncommon to have a Cavalier develop a heart mummer only to see that they have unattended periodontal issues.   

Brushing your Dogs's Teeth is the single most effective means to maintaining oral health between annual professional dental examinations.  This make sense because the bacteria film known as plaque, is the cause of periodontal disease.  This film is easily disrupted by the simple mechanical effect of brushing the teeth.  Frequent brushing - daily, is recommended to maintain optimal dental health.  Almost all dogs will eventually accept brushing.


The key to success is to be patient and gradual in your approach. Brushing mainly the outsides of the posterior (back) teeth by lifting the side lip at the start and then move to the front and then inside.  

Image by Cavalier Matters.  


There is a variety of products that are excellent for canine oral care.  We recommend pet-specific toothpastes and ones that have Dentifrice Enzymatique such as found with C.E.T.  We find the Poultry flavor the most tolerable.  May have to try the bacon flavor one day! 


Little finger brushes work well with puppies and adults just starting out.  There are even smaller finger brushes than the one shown here.  


The longer handheld small tooth brushes are also excellent and can reach the back teeth on adult Cavaliers.  Tooth brushes designed for dogs are soft and have more of an angle to assist in brushing the back teeth. Start puppies young with a small finger brush and keep consistent.  With older dogs do it once a day, however keep your duration very short.  Sides of the back teeth are the easiest and then make sure to add more time and include the entire mouth.  


It doesn't matter who in the family does it.. just as long it is consistent. 

Clorohexidine Oral Rinse and Gels are very effective anti plaque antiseptic.  Problem is that it has a bitter taste and most Cavalier see the bottle and run.  We use it on dogs that are having more issues than normal.  


We do NOT recommend Coconut Oil   It is a great homeopathic idea, however research in Canada for people that are using oil pulling is having disastrous results.  I do believe that Coconut oil has a place in Cavaliers and their diet, just not in their oral health care.  Same way with home mixed tooth pastes.   If you are going to the trouble, use a dog tooth paste that is more effective. 


Do NOT use human Toothpastes either as they often contained high foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled by dogs.   Another new cure for doggy bad breath is paste on a rough surface.  If your Cavalier has bad breath it is most likely from Periodontal Disease.  Save your money and recognize this as a sign of oral issues.  

Nonprofessional Dental Scaling or Anesthesia-free Dentistry is gaining in popularity  for people fearful of anesthesia or because many are not able to afford professional veterinary dental care.  This is NOT my dog below and is a stock photo.  I could not and would not ever do this to one of my dogs!    


The biggest problem with scraping teeth is the mouth is full of blood vessels, which can launch oral bacteria into the bloodstream.  Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream it can infect the valves of the heart resulting in vegetative valvular endocarditis.  

Also a thorough oral exam and cleaning can not be accomplished on a pet who is awake.  


Dental tartar can firmly adheres to the surface of the teeth. If brushing is not effective then the next step is using an ultrasonic power scaler by your Veterinarian. 

 NEVER and I repeat NEVER use a hand scaler or allow your groomer to use one on your dog!  Hand scalers will cause more damage to the dog's tooth!  When you hand scrape the tooth with a metal scaler you create tiny scrape lines on the tooth that will attract MORE TARTER and leave areas open for more periodontal disease!  

Mainly hand scaling with Metal scalers for removal of dental tartar on the visible surfaces of the teeth, has little effect on a pet's health and provides a false sense of accomplishment and can cause major damage.    

Diet & Chews   Hard kibble with NO wet / canned foods or gravy is one excellent way to help reduce tarter buildup.  Remember that dogs are Carnivores - they chew on bones in the wild.  We purchase large bones, knee caps, cow hooves and other natural bones.  We also add in very large rawhides that are made in the US only.   Adding of a smear of natural peanut butter will add new excitement to older chewed bones.  Never purchase the bones that are pre-filled with unknown mixtures.   Most of our products are purchased from Christie's Canine Cafe.   Never offer cooked bones such as your steak bone or from dining out.  Doggie bags are very dangerous and should be for us and not the dogs.    

All Cavaliers should have an Annual Veterinarian Dental Exam  This is what we do and what we recommend yearly.  This is the  best oral care possible for your Cavalier.  If you are regularly brushing your dogs teeth and providing a proper diet and chews, then the number of professional cleanings will drop.  Sometimes there is a need for cleaning or for a tooth that his having an issue then your Veterinarian will schedule X-rays, an ultrasonic cleaning followed with polishing and a course of antibiotics.   


Most people do not realize how involved a dental cleaning actually is.  Normally we drop our dogs off in the morning after withholding food and water.  We fill out the forms, have a visit with the vet and make sure the dog is in good health to have the procedure. We envision the vet takes our dog back and does some cleaning and then the next thing they come back with pearly white teeth like below.    


In reality it is more involved.  First, I personally always have a pre surgical blood panel run to make sure that the dog does not have any underlying infection or issue that would put them at risk.   They insert an IV for medications and fluids.  

Most owners do not realize that in order to do a full dental, radiographs, cleaning and any extractions, that the dog has to be fully anesthtized and because Cavaliers are brachialsephalic - or have long palates in the back of their throats, all our dogs are intubated with a breathing tube.  We use the Animal Hospital of Woodstock because of their superb surgical unit. 

The picture above looks a little scary, however some of the equipment that is shown below provides the safest care for our dogs.   Let me start with the blue pad under the dog which is a surgical warming pad that asssures the dog's temperature does not drop during the procedure. They stay nice and warm during the procedure.  


The interracial tube in their mouth is connected to the ventilator (on the right) to secure and maintain the airway during anesthesia.  It provides air and added oxygen.  


The wires coming off the chest are connected to heart monitor.  This monitor keeps track of the heart rate and blood pressure during the procedure.  The clip on his tongue is for the oxygen level.  


The beginning of the dental procedure starts with full mouth digital x-rays.  The Red pallet in the mouth is part of the X-ray machine.  The digital image pops up on the screen behind the surgical table on a computer screen for evaluation.  The machine is rotated around for multiple views.    


Dental X-rays are one of the most important diagnostic tools available.  Full mouth radiographs establish a base-line for future comparison.  Digital X-ray machines are fast and efficient and the radiation is minimal.   Dogs have a very hard enamel and do not experience cavities or carries like humans.  They however have more problems associated with periodontal diseased that affects the root of the tooth that can't be seen except by the use of x-ray.  Therefore many teeth that look normal to the naked eye can have advanced issues that manifest to the root of the tooth.     

The digital xray below shows some space between the teeth in triangular shapes.  Bushing and attention to these areas will be recommended.   Everything looks good here.  

After X-rays are completed a treatment plan is implemented.  First the teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler that uses a water jet cleaning.  Then a polishing paste on a high speed hand tool is used to polish the teeth smooth.  This is what helps repel tarter buildup.  Polishing in my opinion is one of the most important part of the cleaning procedure.  

It is hard to see in these photos, however the teeth that were once stained with tarter are now glowing white and very smooth.  They look like polished marble. 

In contrast to the digital X-ray a couple photos above, this one  shows major recession of the gum line due to advanced periodontal disease.  Bone loss is also evident and in the last tooth (farthest left) you can see the tip of the tooth root is all but gone.  The two back teeth even though they appear on the surface to be normal they will need to be removed.  


The two lower back teeth to the right are the same teeth seen above in the digital X-ray. 

This will show the damage that advanced periodontal disease has on canine teeth and is not visibly evident.  

The Xray below shows healthy lower front teeth with the exception where the two very front teeth have the beginning of some periodontal issues. It looks like a black little valley between the teeth.  It is very common for Cavaliers to have issues between their two front lower and upper teeth.  Additional brushing and care to this area is always suggested.  The reason I mention this is that most dogs do not like to have their front teeth brushed and especially from the backside of the front teeth.     

Hopefully I have been able to show and explain the importance of oral health care of your Cavalier.  Please when discussing oral health care with your veterinarian make sure that their office is properly equipped with a ventilator to handle the affects of  anesthesia and to maintain an open airway.   


I owe much to Dr. Chris Shule and the team at the Animal Hospital Of Woodstock for taking such excellent care of our dogs and to allow me to photograph the procedures for this educational page.    

©  Linda Baird & Woody Goode 2015