English bulldogs have such a distinctive short face that it can be a challenge not only with cleaning their teeth but makes them very prone to dental issues. With their brachycephalic, or short-nosed face shape, these dogs are extremely prone to periodontal or gum disease. With those challenges in mind, I set out to find the best ways to help clean an English bulldog’s teeth.
How do you clean an English bulldog’s teeth? Due to the predisposition that English bulldogs have to over-crowding and dental issues, the best way to clean their teeth is:
- Getting your dog used to regular, weekly brushing.
- Offering them uncooked, meaty bones to chew on.
- Providing appropriate chew toys.
- Making dietary changes.
- And make sure to take preventative steps for their dental health.
One of the most important things we can do for our English bulldogs is making sure that we catch dental issues for them before they arise, as well as understanding exactly what the risks are of letting dental issues go untreated. Let’s take a closer look at what each of those steps looks like.
Why Are English Bulldogs’ Teeth Difficult to Clean?
The process of breeding for certain standards has caused several health issues for more than one dog breed. English bulldogs are one of the breeds where we see it in an extremely pronounced way with their short-nosed face. The short nose, and wide skull size, make it a difficulty for all their teeth to fit in a much smaller jaw.
The smaller jaw can lead to overcrowding and teeth growing in crooked. These teeth, when identified, may need to be removed with extractions to prevent further issues of tartar build-up and possible infection and decay. Keeping a close eye on how your dog’s teeth grow can help identify the issues that may arise for your bulldog as quickly as possible.
The pronounced underbite that endears English bulldogs to many of their owners is also the source of many of their dental issues. Some bulldogs will present with an overbite even at times. This bite mismatch and the very shape of their mouth, making them more prone than most dogs to bacteria growth between their teeth.
When bacteria collect on your English bulldog’s teeth, they can often form a film on their teeth. The film then attracts even more bacteria to the surface of the dog’s teeth, which promotes the whole process of plaque build-up on their teeth. After a few days of this plaque build-up, the bacteria then infiltrate the gums. The presence of this bacteria at the gum-line can lead to tissue and bone issues later.
The large jowls that English bulldogs are so well known for can make it very difficult to see what is going on with their molars at the back of their mouth. It is critically important that your English bulldog is used to letting you handle their face and mouth and allow you to check their teeth and gums, or caring for and monitoring their teeth becomes even more of a challenge.
Risks of Untreated Dental Issues in English Bulldogs
When bacteria begin to cross over and infect below the gum line, it increases the risk to your pet’s overall health. The obvious complications can be tooth decay and cavities that would be something that most of us are familiar with when thinking of our teeth, but the more serious implications risk other body systems like:
- Destruction of the underlying jaw bone often can be worsened by your dog’s immune system, trying to continuously fight the ongoing infection.
- Difficulties with other chronic health conditions that can worsen due to dental disease, or make the dental disease worse.
- Severe on-going pain, which can be difficult to identify. Since the act of eating for survival is an instinct that dogs will rarely ignore, it can be difficult to notice when their oral pain is increasing as they will often continue eating.
- According to studies by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association, there is a correlation between dental disease and certain heart conditions in dogs. Some studies also show the same bacteria found in dental infections, in heart valve infections for some dogs.
- With any ongoing infection in the body, the risk of infection crossing to a bloodstream infection and sepsis raises, especially if that infection weakens their other organs.
With all of these severe risks to your pet’s health, the importance of prevention becomes even more apparent.
How to Familiarize Your English Bulldog with Getting Their Teeth Brushed
With any type of training with dogs, starting with small steps to get your dog acquainted with new tasks can often be the recipe for success. The very real risk of not easing into brushing your dog’s teeth is that it will either end in a disastrous mess, or the more unfortunate turn could be that your dog develops anxiety about the process.
Of course, you’re going to need a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste for this process, so I highly recommend getting this set from Amazon.
following easy steps to help your English bulldog comfortably transition to
letting you brush their teeth regularly. Throughout
all these steps, make sure to use positive reinforcements, praise, or treats
for your dog, and make sure they are comfortable with one step before moving
onto the next.
Each step below should be performed for a couple of days in a row until the dog is accustomed to it.
- Always make sure that your dog is comfortable with you handling their face and mouth without any signs of anxiety or aggression. Starting this process with a more play focused approach can help with any anxiety issues that may arise.
- Once your dog is at least comfortable with you handling their face and mouth, place a small amount of canine toothpaste on your finger and let them taste it. It’s good to allow them to taste it off your finger, to ease into the next step. One of the biggest challenges can also be finding a flavor of dog toothpaste that they enjoy. If your English bulldog prefers the taste, that makes the process of brushing much easier.
- Start by massaging your dog’s gum-line and teeth with your finger, like how you would brush their teeth, starting at the back and moving to the front. This will also allow you to feel for any chipped, broken, or loose teeth that may be present.
- Start introducing a canine toothbrush next. There are a couple of different kinds that can be helpful to try if the first type isn’t well-received by your dog. They have some that are a small-cap for your thumb or finger that can be used, or more traditional handled brushes.
English bulldog puppies are especially prone to biting you even when you’re not brushing their teeth. Here’s a great post on how to stop them from biting you.
Best Practices for Brushing Your English Bulldog’s Teeth
The best method when brushing your dog’s teeth is to make sure that you’re holding the top of their snout and lifting their upper lip to help gain visibility. Use a gentle circular motion as you would when brushing your teeth. Starting at the back and moving your way to the front, and cleaning both the inside and outside of all the teeth.
Getting them familiar with this process and being handled in this manner at an early age, is always easier than attempting to start in on brushing suddenly years down the road. Even with an older dog, you can acclimate them to the process, it does just require more patience at times, and working at their speed.
An important thing to keep in mind is that if they begin having issues with any kind of infection, their mouth can become tender and sensitive, so additional patients will often be necessary. As you are cleaning their teeth, if your dog offers resistance like pulling away or pawing at your hands, just maintain your hold on their snout, even though it is short, with at least a thumb, and hold the rest of your hand or the toothbrush still in their mouth until they calm and stop resisting.
If you’re able to get your dog comfortable with the process, one of the best practices is to brush or check your dog’s teeth daily, or at a minimum a couple of times a week to help keep that film of bacteria from beginning on their teeth. It also helps keep your dog comfortable with the process if their mouth is being cared for regularly.
Appropriate Chew Toys for an English Bulldog’s Teeth
Bulldogs have very strong jaws, so making sure to offer toys that allow them to satisfy their chewing needs while also caring for their jaw and cleaning their teeth are another great step to help prevent dental issues in arising for your pet.
Because of the shortness of their jaw, English bulldogs can greatly benefit from toys that they can gnaw on. Ideally, toys that are made of hard rubber or nylon and designed for the strongest chewing dogs will be ideal for your pet. The surface of these toys can help promote chewing, which also helps with the cleaning of the film that promotes plaque growth.
Some companies even make the study, heavy-duty rubber toys in dental versions that are made with small bumps and grooves to help rub against the surface of your bulldog’s teeth. This will make the process of helping them clean their teeth while playing even easier.
Given that bulldogs have such powerful jaws, rawhides can be particularly dangerous for them. The danger with rawhide treats for dogs is that when the hide is shewed through into small pieces, that dog will often break them off and eat them, where it can cause digestive complications for your pet.
How Dietary Changes Can Help Keep an English Bulldog’s Teeth Clean
Some people promote giving you dog dental sticks as the one-stop solution for curing dental issues in any breed. There are many cautions when it comes to the right kinds of dental chews. Raw hides that are thick and have the potential to break or crack can be dangerous for your dog. If you’re going to use dental sticks, be sure they are from a reputable source, with natural ingredients when possible.
As we see with human begins, any time we eat heavily processed, starchy foods, the health impacts can be very serious. The same is true for our dogs, even more so when they’re a breed that is much more prone to dental and health issues like the English bulldog. As much as possible, look for natural options for dental chews to help avoid any additional preservatives.
Many times in my experience, owning dogs I have heard that feeding dogs hard kibble is the best method to keep their teeth clean as the crunching process helps to actually “brush” their teeth as they eat. I have often wondered how the kibble is meant to help with scrubbing a dog’s teeth when every dog I have known seemed to inhale their kibble more than chewing it.
Studies support that heavily processed, dry foods, don’t actively treat dental issues in dogs, but more often than not contribute to them. There are several resources on the subject, but Dr. Tom Lonsdale is quoted heavily explaining the risks of traditional food and the benefits of raw food.
There are many benefits to dogs eating things a little more naturally, like what their predecessors did in the wild. Most natural canine predators like wolves do not have struggles with their dental health the same way we see them prevalent in domestic dogs. The highly processed, carbohydrate-heavy food that most domestic dogs eat is one of the largest contributors to this.
When it comes to things to chew on, meaty bones that are uncooked/raw are one of the best treats you can give your bulldog. There are active enzymes in uncooked meat that help fight the process of plaque growth in the mouth as well as helps clean their teeth in the process. These types of bones also satisfy a primal urge for your pet. Many times I think we forget dogs were meant to be dogs.
Alternative Diets for Promoting Dental Health
Given the complexity of dental issues for English bulldogs, another option to consider could be a soft or raw food diet. There are many ways to change your dog over to a raw food diet, but research suggests that with the right blend of nutrients and calcium, a raw food diet can help with things like:
- Healthier skin and coat, which can particularly helpful for your English bulldog who is prone to skin issues with all their wrinkles and folds of skin,
- Healthier weight maintenance, which can also be a general concern for English bulldogs,
- And with benefit to the complex dental challenges that are presented, it can help promote healthier teeth and bone health.
Alternatively, certain diets are considered dental diets. These diets can consist of specifically formulated kibble that can be designed to help reduce tartar build-up and plaque. These food blends can sometimes be quite expensive, so prevention tends to be far more important than using these as a reaction to dental issues with your dog. As with any option you chose where your pet’s diet is concerned, each has distinct benefits and drawbacks.
If you’re considering changing your dog’s diet to the raw food or dental diet, especially if your bulldog is struggling with chewing or has a marked change in the behavior when it comes to eating habits or sensitivities, the best place to start would be speaking with your Veterinarian about which diet or which method of diet change may work best for your dog.
How to Tell if Your English Bulldog Has Worsening Dental Issues
When helping clean your English bulldog’s teeth regularly, you should also inspect their gums and teeth carefully during the process. Looking for visual signs of dental issues can be one of the first steps to identifying areas, they need additional observation with your Veterinarian.
Warning signs of bacteria overgrowth in your English bulldog’s teeth that may require more immediate attention:
- Foul breath, especially a newly worsening foul smell to their breath.
- Chipped, broken, or teeth, which can indicate decay.
- Changes in their chewing or eating habits.
- Red lines along the gum-lines, indicating a spreading infection.
There are many reasons that these signs are important to check for, but mainly worsening dental disease can also impact other health systems, and with any infection, the risk of escalating infections is never something we want to risk with our pets.
Annual visits to your veterinarian are one of the most important steps for maintaining your English bulldog’s dental health. Your veterinarian has additional processes that they can use, such as anesthesia, if more in-depth cleaning of your dog’s teeth is needed or if emergency services are needed. As always, if you have an immediate concern, your veterinarian should be your first stop for your dog’s health. They are trained to know your pet and help identify the best course of not only treatment but prevention for your pet.
Being aware of the particular challenges that your bulldog faces with it comes to their oral health, the most important thing to keep in mind is that making their dental care routine a bonding time for you and your pet, and something enjoyable for you both will help them accept the process far more and look forward to it.
If you want to learn more about English Bulldogs or other types of Bulldogs, then consider checking out this Bulldog Handbook on Amazon.