While we all love the enthusiastic cuddles and kisses we receive from our furry friends, a bad bout of smelly dog breath can really ruin the moment and leave us struggling to get away, fast! It can be easy to convince ourselves that our dog’s breath “just smells that way”, but bad breath in dogs isn’t healthy. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can try to help the situation.
Bad doggie breath – what can I do?
What causes bad breath in dogs?
The most common reason for smelly dog breath is poor oral hygiene. That’s right, just as you were taught to brush your teeth twice a day to avoid those visits to the dentist, your pup’s teeth need similar treatment.
Without regular brushing, plaque and tartar can build up around your dog’s teeth, creating a prime environment for all kinds of bacteria to thrive. If left for too long, periodontal disease can develop, which can lead to unhealthy gums, cavities, infections or tooth loss.
Cleaning your dog’s teeth
The easiest way to begin freshening your dog’s breath is to brush their teeth regularly. While it can take some perseverance when you first get started, your pup will quickly become familiar with the routine and may even begin to enjoy it. You'll need a specific dog-formulated toothpaste such as Nylabone or CET, and you can buy a special toothbrush as well.
Here are some top tips to help ease the process for both of you:
- Start brushing as young as possible – getting your puppy used to a toothbrush at an early age will only make things easier going forward.
- Ease into it – some owners like to start first with their finger or a finger brush, gently rubbing teeth and gums with a tasty toothpaste. Slowly introduce a toothbrush, and then gradually increase the amount of time spent brushing.
- Use a tasty, doggie-specific toothpaste – a meat-flavoured toothpaste will double as a treat for your dog while brushing. This will keep them interested while you get to work! Do not use human toothpaste – some ingredients in our paste are no good for dogs.
- Be calm, happy and relaxed as you brush, and provide plenty of positive reinforcement.
How often should I brush my dog's teeth?
We typically brush our own teeth twice a day and, ideally, we’d do the same for our dogs. If this is too difficult to manage, aim for once daily or several times a week. Try to ensure you’re also brushing over their gum line – this is a prime spot for plaque and tartar build up.
On days you don’t brush, chew toys or doggie dental treats can help pick up the slack, as chewing on harder surfaces can help dislodge plaque. In a similar way, a good quality premium dog food can help, as the shape and texture of the biscuits can have a brushing effect as your dog chews.
Still smelling bad breath?
If you’re brushing regularly and still recoiling from your dog’s smooches, there may be other causes for their bad breath.
Here are some things you can look out for:
- Getting into the garbage – many dogs are rather unphased about what goes into their mouths. Some will eat straight from the rubbish bin, snack on cat poop (or even their own poop!) or tuck into any animal remains that may be decomposing in your yard. If you know your pup is partial to these unhygienic appetisers, keep a close eye on them and regularly remove any potential temptations.
- Signs of gum disease – if your dog is no longer a puppy but you’ve just started brushing, there may be plaque and tartar build up already established that you’ll struggle to get rid of with a toothbrush. These deposits can lead to gum disease and may need to be professionally removed by your vet. Look out for inflamed or receding gums, or yellow/brown colouring around the teeth.
Signs of something more serious
Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of smelly breath in dogs, but in some cases it can also signal an underlying health issue. If you notice the following stenches wafting from your dog’s mouth, it’s best to get in touch with your vet:
- Sweet or fruity smell – while perhaps not unpleasant, this aroma is one symptom of diabetes in dogs. Your vet will be able to advise you of additional signs to look out for.
- Urine smell – this odour from your dog’s mouth can be a warning sign of kidney disease.
- Very bad breath and yellow gums – these symptoms can sometimes indicate that there is a problem with your dog’s liver function. Contact your vet as soon as you can.
- Fishy smell – this may be related to glands around your dog’s rear-end that they so love to keep clean, but it can also be linked to kidney and liver problems. If it’s frequent and worrying you, it’s best to give your vet a call.
For more tips and advice about dental care options for your dog, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Pet Direct team on 0800 200 240.