Over half of dog owners say their pets have bad breath, yet they believe it’s a normal part of ownership that they simply have to put up with revealed a OnePoll.com survey. It also found that only one in 10 dog owners have sought veterinary advice about their dog’s breath, and only a fifth would worry about it being a sign of a more serious health concern.
While no one really wants to snuggle up to a foul-smelling dog, any pong could be just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your pet’s health. If your dog has bad breath all of a sudden – give it some thought. Bad breath doesn’t necessarily mean bad teeth so ensure you get your dog checked out by a vet to rule out anything more sinister.
Causes of bad breath
Bad breath, or halitosis, is usually caused by a build-up of plaque. To a much lesser extent, cancer in the mouth can also create a smell and puppy bad breath can be caused by bacteria getting into the gaps when baby teeth fall out.
Plaque and bacteria
By far the most common cause of bad dog breath is the build-up of plaque and bacteria. This can cause periodontal disease, in which the ligaments holding the teeth in the jaw get loose, resulting in tooth loss. Damage to the dental ligaments allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream and be carried to the heart, liver and kidneys, causing serious illness.
Other than bad breath, a sign that your dog has periodontal disease is him not wanting to eat. This could be a direct result of tooth pain or it could be caused by the build-up of toxins in the body.
Licking of the anal area
If you’ve got a dog with an itchy bottom, he’ll often lick his anus where anal gland fluid can get on to his tongue. This can smell pretty bad and could be a sign that his anal glands need expressing – something that can be done quickly and painlessly by your vet.
One in 10 dogs will develop kidney disease in their lifetime and one of the chronic signs is bad breath with a chemical odour. The toxins that build up in the blood can be emitted on the breath, coming up from the lungs through the mouth. Other signs of kidney disease include increased thirst and urination so if this is something you have noticed in your dog, you should get him seen by a vet as soon as possible.
Treating dental disease
All of these causes of bad breath will need help from your vet. Vet treatments may include a general anaesthetic as a dental clean and polish are the best ways of getting the gums back to normal. They will use an ultrasonic descaling tool to remove plaque from the teeth, both above and below the gum line. The teeth will also be polished to make it harder for bacteria to stick to them in future. Your vet may also take X-rays to see if any teeth need to be removed.
Following a dental procedure, it’s a good idea to implement a regular toothbrushing routine to keep plaque and bacteria at bay.
The best way to keep control of bacteria in the mouth is by brushing. This means gently wiping the teeth with toothpaste on a muslin-type material. Dogs are generally a lot better at dental care than cats but some dogs can still be a bit mouth shy.
Fresh breath for dogs
There are lots of products available to help freshen your dog’s breath, but it’s important to get any whiffs checked out by your vet first to rule out any dental disease or other underlying health problems.
There are products containing seaweed extract, which are believed to keep bacteria levels in the mouth down and an array of dental chews. It’s important that chews are not high in calories and can’t be consumed too quickly. If a chew is consumed in less than a minute then it hasn’t really done much for the teeth. Rawhide chews are good because the sinew acts like dental floss, giving teeth a good clean.
Daily brushing is the gold standard for teeth, however brushing less often is going to be better than not brushing at all. If your dog is not used to having his teeth brushed, build up gradually.
- Get a dog-specific toothpaste and put a little on your finger for your dog to lick. Doggie paste comes in delicious flavours so most dogs are very keen on it.
- You can progress to rubbing a bit of the paste onto the surface of your dog’s teeth and perhaps use a bit of fabric to create a bit of friction to rub off any plaque.
- Eventually, you can get your dog used to an angled toothbrush, specially designed for a dog’s mouth.
- Once your dog is happy to have his teeth brushed, try to do it as often as possible for maximum effect.