How To Get Rid Of Bad Dog Breath
As much as we love our canine companions, they aren’t exactly known for their minty-fresh chops. With their protein rich diets, and the inability to brush their own teeth, it can be easy for your pet’s natural breath to become overpowering. Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to eliminate – or at the very least improve – dog and puppy bad breath. In this guide, we discuss why dogs get bad breath, what it might mean, and run through some tired and tested home remedies for bad dog breath.
Why Do Dogs Get Bad Breath?
Dogs can develop pungent breath for a variety of reasons – some of them lifestyle related, others for medical reasons.
Below are some of the most common reasons your dog has bad breath:
- Bad Food
Dogs are opportunistic creatures, and if you’ve ever owned one, you’ll be well aware of the many unpleasant ‘foods’ your canine pal likes to sneak into their mouth. From animal droppings, to rotten fish, to trash, your pet’s unpleasant breath may well be the result of a clandestine meal.
- Poor Oral Hygiene
Just like us, dogs are susceptible to plaque, which can cause problems – including odor – when left to build up. If your dog doesn’t have an oral hygiene regimen, this can lead to very bad breath.
- Gum Disease
Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is a condition in which your dog’s gums become inflamed. Believe it or not, gum disease is one of the most common health conditions in dogs. The disease has a few potential causes, but more often than not, it comes about as the result of bacterial infection. The infection, usually the result of poor hygiene practices, can lead to a very unpleasant odor.
- Kidney Disease
Although they’re a long way from your dog’s mouth, the kidneys can also cause bad breath should they become diseased. This is because the kidneys are responsible for breaking down waste products in the body. When they stop functioning as they should, these waste products can sometimes be detected in your dog’s breath. If their breath smells like ammonia, kidney disease is a strong possibility, and you should consult with your vet as soon as possible.
Believe it or not, diabetes can also have a profound effect on your dog’s breath. Canine diabetes is surprisingly common; around one dog in every 300 will develop the condition at some point in their life. Diabetes is more prevalent in older animals. It occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin – the hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. If your dog has diabetes, their breath may smell sweet, and almost fruity. Diabetes can also suppress the animal’s immune system, allowing increased bacterial growth in the mouth, which can also lead to very bad breath.
- Foreign Objects
Dogs are notorious chewers, and sometimes – with the best will in the world – they can gain access to items not meant to be gnawed on. Everything from fish hooks, to sticks, to plastic fragments can become stuck in your dog’s mouth or teeth, where they begin to rot or trigger infection. This can lead to very bad breath.
Whether malignant or benign, tumors in your dog’s oral cavity can also lead to bad breath. When tumors grow, their growth rate is often too quick for blood vessels to keep up, which can lead to ‘dead’ areas. Here, bacteria are able to take over, leading to some bad smells.
Seeking Veterinary Treatment
Bad breath can arise for a number of reasons, many of which require veterinary care. It can be difficult to tell whether your dog’s bad breath is the result of smelly food and poor hygiene, or whether they require medical attention.
If your dog exhibits one of the following symptoms alongside bad breath, it’s probably time to give your vet a call:
- Their bad breath smells like ammonia – this is indicative of kidney disease
- Their breath smells sweet, or fruity – this could be a warning sign for diabetes
- The gums appear red, or swollen – this could indicate infection or gum disease
- You notice discoloration of lumps in their mouth – these may be tumors
- A foreign object has become lodged in the gums – it may need to be removed by a vet
- Your dog’s eating or drinking habits have changed
- Your pet is less energetic than usual
- Your dog appears to be in pain – whining, seeking solitude etc.
If in doubt, it’s always best to consult with a trusted veterinary professional. Even if your dog’s bad breath has a benign cause, they will be able to advise you on improving and maintaining your pet’s oral hygiene.
Home Remedies for Bad Breath
If your dog’s breath is not tied to an underlying health issue, there’s plenty you can do at home to improve it:
- Regular Oral Check-Ups
As mentioned earlier, oral problems can be tied to a whole host of canine health conditions. By regularly checking your dog’s mouth, you can spot issues early on, putting you in a much better position to them.
Every week or so, take a moment to inspect your dog’s mouth. Look out for:
- Loose teeth
- Wedged-in pieces of food
- Foreign objects
- Discolored areas
- Growths or lumps
It’s also a good idea to take your four-legged friend for a professional dental check-up annually.
- Tooth Brushing
The single most effective treatment for bad canine breath is regular brushing. We’ll walk you through how to brush your dog’s teeth in detail below.
- Tighter Security
Bad breath is often the result of nasty canine ‘snacks’. To prevent this from happening, you’ll need to go on lockdown where garbage or outdoor access is concerned. Make sure your dog can’t open the kitchen trash can, and try to supervise them when they’re out and about.
- Dental Chews
These chewable treats are basically the canine equivalent of gum – their slightly abrasive texture helps remove plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth as they chew. Bully sticks are one great option, and many pet care companies produce specially designed dental chews. These chews aren’t a substitute for tooth-brushing, but they can significantly improve your dog’s breath over time.
- Water Additive
For particularly potent breath, you might seek the help of a water additive. These liquid sprays contain ingredients that are naturally antiseptic, keeping odorous bacteria- and the plaque they produce – at bay in your pet’s mouth. These products are designed to have an appealing taste, and can spritzed into your dog’s water bowl, or directly into their mouth.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth
In an ideal world, your dog should have their teeth brushed two or three times a week. If you’ve never brushed your pet’s teeth before, this may seem like a huge challenge, but with gradual acclimatization, almost any pet can learn to tolerate tooth brushing.
First and foremost, arm yourself with some canine-friendly cleaning supplies. Human toothbrushes and toothpastes simply aren’t designed for our pooches, and using them can do more harm than good. Dog-friendly toothbrushes are smaller and softer than their human counterparts, making for a more comfortable brushing experience. Meanwhile, dog toothpastes have a lower fluoride content, and feature flavors that your pet might enjoy, such as bacon.
Next, you’ll need to get your dog used to the idea that regular tooth brushing is a normal – if irritating – part of life:
- Start by introducing them to a little toothpaste, allowing them to lick if from your finger.
- Gently play with your dog’s lips and gums, a few times each day, for a few days.
- When your pet is used to this type of contact, introduce the toothbrush, allowing them to sniff, lick, and look at the item.
- Next, squeeze a little toothpaste onto the brush, and allow your dog to investigate the two new items together.
- Once your dog is familiar with both paste and brush, gently run the toothbrush, loaded with toothpaste, along their gum line and teeth.
- Forge positive associations by rewarding your dog with a treat when they allow you to do this.
- Gradually, your dog will allow you to handle their mouth for increasingly longer stretches of time.
Once your dog is comfortable with tooth brushing, you can achieve the best results using the following tips:
- Brush each tooth for about 5 seconds, moving the brush in small circles.
- Be gentle – the vigorous brushing you might employ on your own moth can actually damage canine gums.
- Only brush the outside of the teeth – this will be much more comfortable for your pet, plus their rough tongue can remove most debris on the other side.
- Clean the teeth in short bursts – very few dogs will allow you to clean every tooth in one go, so be patient.
- The whole brushing process should only take between 30 and 60 seconds – there’s no need to draw it out.
- Provide plenty of encouragement while brushing your dog’s teeth – praise and pet them during pauses, and give them a small treat afterwards.