herald

Monday 23 October 2017

The spaniel that chooses chews

Kerri wants to keep Molly's teeth clean but the little dog won't let her use a toothbrush

Kerri was only three years old when Molly arrived as a puppy. She was the one who chose Molly's name, and the two of them have since grown up together. These days Kerri is clear that Molly is her best friend, and they spend much of the day playing with one another.

Kerri takes Molly for a walk in the park for an hour twice a day, and they are well-known to other people walking their dogs. Molly is a calm, good-natured dog who gets on well with every person and animal she meets.

Her tail is always wagging. Kerri often pets and hugs her, and Molly has never growled nor shown any sign of unfriendliness.

disagreement

Kerri is very particular about looking after Molly's appearance. She brushes her coat several times a week, teasing out matted fur and putting it out in the garden for the local wild birds to use to line their nests.

There is just one area of mild disagreement: tooth brushing. Molly refuses to let Kerri brush her teeth.

The subject of dental health came up recently when Molly was brought to me for her annual health check and vaccination.

Molly is typical for a middle-aged dog: her teeth are beginning to loosen and fall out because of tooth and gum disease, but the Kinsella family hadn't realised that this was happening. It's all hidden behind Molly's lips, and unless you open her mouth and have a close look, it's easy not to notice.

Research shows that four out of five dogs over the age of three have dental disease, yet 90pc of owners rate their own dog's teeth and gums as good or perfect.

When I pointed this out to Kerri and her family, they decided that it was high time to try again to get into the routine of brushing Molly's teeth.

They bought a toothbrush and some meat-flavoured dog toothpaste, and they asked the little dog to sit still while they brushed her teeth.

They started slowly and gently, to try to get her used to the idea, but she didn't like it, shaking her head and refusing to sit still. When I saw them again a few weeks later they asked me if there was any alternative way to keep her teeth clean. There's no doubt that tooth-brushing is the gold standard of doggy dental care: it's the most effective way to prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar that leads to dental problems.

But many dog owners find it difficult to brush their pet's teeth every day.

The next best answer is to give a dog a regular dental chew that has been designed to "automatically" clean a dog's teeth.

The latest version of this type of product is the Pedigree Dentaflex chew.

A dog like Molly only needs to be given one chew twice a week to obtain a useful level of tooth cleaning.

Difficult

Like many dogs, Molly needs to watch her waistline, so Kerri knows that she has to reduce Molly's daily food intake to take account of the extra calories from the chew.

The label explains that while the chews are sugar-free and low in fat, they provide around half the daily food allowance on the day that they're eaten.

Kerri is reassured to know that Molly's teeth will be cleaner and healthier without that daily battle over tooth brushing.

Owner: Kerri Kinsella from Shankill

Pet: Molly, her eight-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Problem: Molly prefers chewing tasty dental chews to having her teeth brushed

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