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Causes and Cures for Bad Breath in Dogs: How to Care for Your Dog's Teeth and Mouth

Updated on September 3, 2018
Healthyannie profile image

Pet health is just as important as human health. Natural remedies are often as effective as conventional treatments, and simpler and safer.

How to Look After Your Dog's Teeth

How to care for your dog's teeth and mouth
How to care for your dog's teeth and mouth

How to Look After Your Dog's Teeth

Does your dog's breath not smell fresh? A bad breath, or a peculiar smell, could indicate that your dog has a dental problem

Many dog owners struggle to ensure that their dog's breath smells fresh and to look after their dog's teeth. This is particularly true when it comes to smaller dogs as they might be more reluctant to eat dry dog food. A good quality dry dog biscuit helps to prevent tartar build up on your dog's teeth.

I have a little Yorkshire terrier, and I have noticed he has a tendency to suffer problems with his breath even though he does eat a good quality dry biscuit.

Bad breath (halitosis) is a build-up of odor-causing bacteria in a dog’s mouth and is very common. Unlike us dogs do not brush their teeth twice every day, nor do they floss.

It is always a good idea to pay attention to your dog’s breath, as bad breath can be an indication of a health problem in the mouth or digestive issue.

What You Need to About Bad Breath in Dogs

More often than not canine bad breath is caused by bacteria in the mouth which has caused dental or gum disease. Dogs experience tartar and plaque build up as well, and it is important to look after your dog’s mouth for better overall health.

There are however other times when your dog’s bad breath can be an indication of something else, and it could be a problem which requires urgent veterinary attention.

Sweet or fruity breath, for instance, can mean your canine friend is suffering from diabetes. If you think your dog urinates more frequently and drinks an excessive amount of water, you should smell his or her breath. If it smells sweet or fruity it could mean your dog has diabetes which needs veterinary attention. Canine diabetes can now be successfully treated, and help is available from your veterinary clinic.

If your dog’s breath smells like urine (acidic), it could mean there is a problem with your dog’s kidneys. Poor quality dog food can affect the kidneys so make sure you buy a good quality dog food.

An unusually bad breath can indicate liver disease or problems in the gut. This is often accompanied by vomiting, poor appetite and in the case of liver disease yellow corneas or gums.

How Is Bad Breath in Dogs Treated?

If plaque is the problem your veterinarian will recommend your dog’s teeth to be cleaned properly. This would require your dog to be sedated whilst the vet completes a clean and examination of the mouth. Sometimes teeth need to be extracted, and a good examination also gives the vet a chance to investigate if there are any other problems in the mouth such as unwanted growths.

When bad breath is caused by the wrong food or a food which your dog does not tolerate very well, your vet will be able to advise you on the right type of food. There are some great foods on the market today which will encourage your furry friend to chew more and better. This is crucial when combating bad breath.

How Can I Improve My Dog's Dental Hygiene at Home?

Dogs love to chew and it is a good idea to encourage your dog to chew.

Both my dogs love to chew. This is especially important for my small dog as it is hard to brush his teeth. Yorkshire terriers have such small mouths and it can be hard to reach the back teeth. I have found that rawhide chews are the best, and both dogs seem to like them.

Check-ups are also important for your dog. Make sure you check your dog’s teeth yourself on a weekly basis to spot any problems early on, but when your dog has his annual injections ask the vet to check your dog's teeth and mouth. It is just as important as asking the vet to listen to your dog’s heart.

The herb parsley helps. If you cook and prepare your dog’s food try adding some parsley. It is great for a fresh breath, and it also helps your dog to digest his food better. If your dog only eats a dry food you can put parsley in his drinking water. The best way to do this is to put some fresh parsley in a bowl and cover it with hot water. After five minutes remove the parsley and allow the water to cool. All dogs I have tried this on seem to like parsley water. Parsley supplements are also available for dogs

Decaffeinated green tea is actually okay for dogs in small quantities. Just add some cold decaffeinated green tea to your dog’s water bowl. This is also a great treatment for dogs that suffer cancer or have skin problems.

Provide your dog with a range of chew toys which will exercise his teeth. Make sure they are safe as you do not want your canine friend to swallow any foreign objects.

Carrot sticks are one of my dog’s favorites. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he actually loves carrot sticks. If your dog has a sensitive stomach I would not recommend carrot sticks as they contain a lot of fiber and can, therefore, cause diarrhea. Carrots are rich in beta-carotene which is good for overall health. We often forget dogs are omnivores and are happy to eat both fruit and vegetables.

Remember that many health problems can start in your dog’s mouth, so help your canine friend and give him the best food and oral care you can afford.

Small Dogs Often Suffer From bad Breath

Top 5 Dog Mouth and Dental Problems

Before I started this article I did some research at my local vets. I asked if they could tell me the five most common mouth or tooth related problems they see in dogs visiting their veterinary clinic. They had the information at their fingertips, or rather should I say, on the office computer. So here it is - a top five of mouth related problems in dogs.

The Risk of Dental Abscesses in Dogs

Some dog owners still ignore good veterinary advice and don't have their dogs' teeth cleaned. Dogs often come in with dental abscesses which need urgent treatment. A tooth abscess happens when the root of the tooth becomes infected. Bacteria have been able to get into the root through a cracked tooth. This is the most common cause of a tooth abscess in dogs, but an abscess can also be caused by periodontal disease.

How Do You Know if Your Dog has Abscessed Tooth?

An abscess can make it difficult for your dog to eat. Your dog might drop food, tip his head to one side to chew or go off his food altogether. The eye closest to the infection can also swell, as the infected root could be close to the eye. Abscesses can spread quickly, and cause problems for other teeth so you need to take your dog to the vet.

Other symptoms include of a dental abscess in dogs include:

  • Bleeding and red gums
  • Swelling along the gumline
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swollen face
  • Swelling and warmth
  • Pain and tenderness

Loose Teeth in Dogs

Puppies lose their teeth, and this is not a problem. They have deciduous teeth just like humans, and they need to fall out to make room for permanent, larger teeth. Puppies lose their teeth around 4 - 6 months, and by the time your puppy is around 8 months, he or she will have 42 adult teeth.

Just like children, some puppies may have problems with baby teeth not following out. This problem can be easily spotted, and you will see two teeth in the same place in your puppy's mouth. If this happens, you should visit the vet so he can remove the baby tooth. If the baby tooth is not removed it can cause damage to the adult tooth, and lead to problems in the future.

Adults dogs can suffer loose teeth as well. A loose tooth in an adult dog normally means periodontal disease, or your dog could have damaged the tooth in some way.

Fractured Teeth in Dogs

This is more common than we think in dogs, and as owners, we should look out for the problem.

Dogs use their mouths for so much, and the best advice is always to keep an eye on what your dog has in his mouth. Picking up the wrong object can cause real problems. Lots of dogs love picking up rocks, or hard sticks. It might be a fun game for you and your dog, but rocks can break a tooth, and a stick can lead to splinters being retained in your dog's mouth.

A broken, or a cracked tooth, can also be the result of tugging games, playing too rough or impact. Dogs sometimes crack, or damage teeth, when they catch a frisbee or a ball. Rubber or nylon toys which are a bit flexible are the best toys.

Do Dogs Suffer from Misaligned Teeth?

Vets even see dogs with misaligned teeth. This is often a result of a jaw problem and may need surgery, as misaligned teeth can cause pain in both the mouth and jaw. We all know dogs can't wear braces but sometimes vets need to take action. Misaligned teeth are often removed, or they can also be capped. It is very important to deal with this problem as early as possible, as dogs with severely misaligned teeth cannot eat properly. They may even suffer from digestive problems.

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

If you notice blood on your dog's toys, you should check their moth. Swollen and bleeding gums are the most common signs of periodontal disease. This is one of the most frequently encountered health problems in dogs.

It all starts when plaque starts to build up on your dog's teeth. The plaque will lead to tartar which is a hard, almost brown, substance. When the problem moves to the gum line, your dog can develop gingivitis. Signs of gingivitis are red and puffy gums. This can, in turn, lead to tooth loss, but also introduce infections which travel via the bloodstream to other organs.

If you notice this problem visit your dog's vet as soon as possible. Periodontal disease can be avoided by regular cleaning of your dog's teeth. Chewing is also good for your dog's teeth. It is important for your dog to have toys for chewing and healthy snacks to chew on.

My canine friend Gonzo
My canine friend Gonzo | Source

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Dog Toys For Young and Old Dog Friends

We have recently been joined by a young puppy called Sadie. She is a cross between a German Shepherd and a Doberman. She is only six months so she loves to chew, and loves nothing better than to surprise us with the odd chewed piece of footwear.

I have looked at several types of dog toys which are the best for young as well as old dogs, and I have come to the conclusion that Kong toys are probably the best dog toys on the market.

It is easy to put bits of food into Kong toys which make them more interesting, and you can even buy Kong toys that float. So whatever type of toy you are looking for I am sure you will find it in the Kong toy range.

© 2012 Annie Messeri


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Great and informative article, I learned a great deal and will check my dogs' teeth more frequently. BTW, a few times you spelled "mouth" incorrectly as "moth".

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Yes it is sadly one of those problems that dog owners neglect. I wish I could get my Yorkie to use a toothbrush but I can't.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Voted up! Really interesting hub. a lot of dog owners seem to forget the importance of dental hygiene in dogs.

    • Healthyannie profile imageAUTHOR

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      Thank you for dropping by. Lots of people seem to have a problem with their dog's breath. Take care Annie

    • Sissi Ravano profile image


      6 years ago from The Beautiful Ligurian Sea, Arm Of The Mediterranean Sea

      very useful information indeed. Thanks Annie.


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