Important Areas of Focus: Regular Grooming, Dental and Nail Care – Dogs

Icon of a book Grooming, Dental and Nail Care for Dogs


  • Puppies have 28 teeth.
  • Adult dogs have 42 teeth – 12 incisors (6 on top and bottom), 4 canine teeth (2 on top and bottom), 16 pre-molars (8 on top and bottom), 10 molars (4 on top and 6 bottom).
  • Puppies can start teething at 4 months of age and usually have their full set of adult teeth by 6 months of age.
  • Dog teeth can have either 1, 2 or 3 roots depending on which tooth it is.
  • Many dogs have malocclusions or irregular alignment of their teeth. This occurs more often in the short-nosed breeds like Bulldogs, Shih Tzus and Pugs. Sometimes these have no effect on their ability to live a normal life. Other times, irregularly placed teeth need to be removed to prevent them from hitting the palate or gums and causing pain. Most malocclusions are genetic, therefore, dogs with severe tooth alignment should not be bred, or they will pass these traits on to their offspring.
  • Dogs are prone to fracturing or breaking their teeth. This is usually from chewing on very hard items like bones or antlers. These broken teeth often need medical treatment. Veterinary dental specialists can repair these teeth by doing a root canal to relieve the pain and placing a crown over the tooth to strengthen it. Some fractured teeth are so severely damaged that they need to be extracted (removed) altogether. This can be done by your regular veterinarian.

Bad breath, swollen gums or discoloured teeth in a dog are usually signs of tooth or gum problems and ranks as one of the top reasons people seek veterinary care for their dogs. Like humans, dogs need to have their teeth inspected by a veterinarian twice every year and brushed daily if they are to maintain good oral hygiene. Daily brushing is a routine that can be started early by slowly teaching the dog to get used to having fingers put into his or her mouth. Dog specific toothpaste must be used because human toothpaste is toxic for dogs.

You can learn more about brushing your dog’s teeth from VCA Canada Hospitals.

Dogs should have their teeth brushed daily and inspected by a veterinarian twice yearly.


Regular grooming is important to a dog’s well being. Grooming sessions also allow you to examine the dog’s coat, teeth, eyes, ears and nails for signs of problems. A grooming schedule depends on the size, breed and type of coat of the dog. 

Brushing is also important. Depending on the breed and coat, several brushing sessions a week will keep the average dog neat and clean; daily attention is necessary for some breeds. The American Kennel Club provides the following information about brushing and grooming a dog:

“Brush all the way down to the skin, letting the massaging action stimulate blood circulation and loosen and remove flakes of dandruff. 

The kind of equipment you need depends on the dog’s coat texture and length. Long-haired dogs need pin brushes, which have long, round-ended stainless-steel or chrome-plated pins. Short-, medium- and some long-coated breeds need bristle brushes. There are also slicker brushes for removing mats and dead hair; rubber curry combs to polish smooth coats and remove dead hair; clippers, stripping knives, rakes, hair dryers and other grooming tools. 

When brushing, always check for burrs and other stubborn plant material; mats, which most frequently form behind the ears and under the legs; and any cuts or scrapes on the skin itself. 

All dogs shed, though some definitely shed more than others. Regular brushing helps keep shedding under control.”

Excerpts obtained from American Kennel Club's page on "How to Groom a Dog at Home". 

Dogs should also be bathed on a regular basis. However, too frequent baths can also have a negative effect, causing the skin to become dry and natural oils to be stripped from the coat. 

Shampoo that is specially made for dogs or puppies should be used to bathe a dog. The ears and eyes should also be protected. Depending on the breed of your dog, their ears may be cleaned regularly to minimize wax buildup. Floppy-eared dogs tend to need weekly ear cleaning while prick-eared dogs may need cleaning only once a month. Only the outer part of the ear should be cleaned, using a cotton ball dampened with special ear cleaning solution available from your veterinarian. Eye discharges should be gently cleaned with a moist cotton ball. 

You can learn more about dog grooming from VCA Canada Hospitals.

The American Kennel Club also identifies the need to check the dog’s anal sacs regularly. “Anal sacs are located on each side of the dog’s anus; they are glands that exude scent when your dog has a bowel movement. The anal sacs can become infected and should be monitored. If the dog scoots on his rear, licks or scratches his anus, he may have impacted anal sacs.” A veterinarian should be consulted about how to treat an anal sac problem.

Dogs require regular grooming, brushing and bathing routines.  


Dogs have nails that grow continuously and must be frequently trimmed. Long nails can break easily and cause discomfort when the dog walks. 

Trimming a dog’s nails requires specially designed nail clippers or a nail grinder designed for pets. Most dogs dislike having their nails trimmed and need training to learn to accept nail trims. 

You can learn more about trimming a dog’s nails from VCA Canada Hospitals.

What does the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennels say about care of body systems for dogs?

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s Code of Practice for Kennel Operations makes general statements on the necessity of regular grooming and dental care. 

“Grooming is necessary for all dog breeds. Grooming can include coat maintenance, ear care, maintenance of the hair and skin around the eyes, and nail trimming.”

The choice of foods and availability of chewing material can also affect the health and cleanliness of a dog’s teeth and overall health. The best proof that a diet is beneficial to a dog’s oral health is the Veterinary Oral Health Certification (VOHC) seal. Dental diets and dental treats that meet the VOHC seal are available. Certain chew toys may also have dental benefits.

Excerpts obtained from the Code of Practice for Kennel Operations (3rd Edition, 2018), Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) has banned surgical alterations for purely cosmetic purposes. 

These surgeries include: 

  • ear cropping
  • tail docking
  • tail nicking
  • tail blocking
  • partial digit amputation (declawing or onychectomy)
  • tendonectomy
  • front dewclaw removal
  • cosmetic dentistry
  • body piercing
  • tattooing that is not for the purpose of registration and identification
  • devocalization.

Learn more about why the ABVMA has banned these unnecessary surgeries. 

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