If you have a dog you are probably extremely aware of how unpleasant a dog’s breath can be, but what are the causes and solutions to this problem? How concerned should you be about your dog’s dental health? Aside from causing family members to avoid getting close to your dog, which is something neither of you wants, there may be solutions or questions that need addressing.
Before you decide to remove some of your dog’s teeth it is important to look into the causes of bad breath. Dogs, just like humans, struggle with oral hygiene and buildup of plaque which can cause the bacteria which leads to bad breath. Plaque buildup is the most common source of bad breath. Dogs that chew on sticks, toys, or dental chews often have less plaque buildup, so if your dog is not a big chewer you may need to look into special dog toothpaste and learn to brush their teeth. As plaque builds up it can push their gums up leading to increased area where bacteria can thrive. Receding gums can also lead to an increased risk of cavities or infection.
Your dog’s bad breath could also be because of their diet. Does your dog like to eat trash or get into unknown items on your walks? If your dog likes to eat unpleasant things then it may lead them to have unpleasant breath. If you think that their food is causing their bad breath you may want to brush their teeth more often or try giving them dental chews to clean their teeth. Some dogs have the habit of eating feces, called coprophagia, either their own or another dog in the household’s or anything they can find while on a walk. This unsavory habit is highly unpleasant for humans and is a cause of bad breath and is not healthy for your dog. Unfortunately, this is a reason people give up their dog or even euthanize their dog. This can be a hard habit to break, but there are ways that work very well. First, talk to your vet and rule out any underlying health concerns or dietary deficiencies. Try and examine whether your dog eats poop when he is stressed or if he is lonely and bored from being isolated or left alone. If you have ruled out health and behavioral, then adding a multivitamin or enzyme supplement have been helpful in some cases. Another successful approach is to add an ingredient to your dog’s food and the food of any other pet in your household, that will render their poop to be unappealing. Parsley, yucca, garlic, msg, pumpkin are all additives that can help. Finally, good habits are critical. Take your dog on regular walks and use a command such as leave it when you see your dog approaching feces or any other undesirable find. When he stops, give him a treat and move along on your walk. Keep him leashed until the habit is broken. Clean up after your pets, including cat litterboxes immediately to take away temptation. Dogs are creatures of habit so if you are consistent, then they will quickly associate leaving poop alone with getting praise and a treat.
There are a few medical reasons that your dog may have bad breath that you may want to look out for. If their breath smells sweet, like urine, or their breath is horrible and is combined with other symptoms such as vomiting, stomach pain, or yellowing of the gums then this may be a sign of something more than bad breath. Sweet smelling bad breath can be a sign of high blood glucose levels especially if it is combined with increased urination and panting. Breath that smells like urine can be signs that something may be wrong with their kidneys and you should seek advice from your veterinarian. Finally, horrible breath combined with vomiting and yellow gums could be a sign that your dog’s liver may not be working correctly. If you see any of these signs reach out to your vet.
Overall, the best way to improve your dog’s breath is to brush their teeth on a regular basis and have your vet check their teeth yearly to determine if a professional teeth cleaning or extraction is recommended. Make sure that you use a toothpaste specifically created for dogs, human toothpastes often contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. There are many different brands of toothpaste that are geared towards dogs and taste like things such as chicken or peanut butter so they are more appealing to your pups taste buds. Encouraging your dog to chew dental toys or other hard toys can also help remove plaque from their teeth and can keep them mentally stimulated throughout the day.
While brushing your dog’s teeth can help limit the plaque, if you think that brushing your dog’s teeth isn’t working reach out to your veterinarian to see if a dental cleaning would be more effective. Dental cleanings and teeth removal involves anesthesia, so your vet must check to see if your dog is the right candidate for a cleaning. Office cleanings may be more important for smaller dog breeds that are predisposed for dental diseases.
If you believe that your dog has dental problems it’s important to treat them sooner rather than later because dental health can impact your dog’s overall health. Make sure to observe all of your dog’s symptoms, just in case their bad breath is a symptom of something more serious. If you are worried that bad breath could be sign of something more reach out to you veterinarian to see if there are any treatment options they may recommend.