Most of us love getting lots of smooches from our pets, but sometimes their breath is so stinky it just isn’t enjoyable anymore. This is clearly a problem that many pet owners face as there are hundreds of products on the market today aimed at battling bad breath including toys, mints, gels, pastes and liquids. How do you decide what to try?
Many parents of foul-breath pets don’t realize that the odor can be caused by more than just plaque and bacteria. Bad breath, or halitosis, can be a sign of a more serious malady. If you notice that your pet’s breath is fouler than usual, the best advice I can give you is to visit your veterinarian to rule out serious problems like digestive issues, oral disease or tooth decay, lung conditions, kidney or liver disease, and even diabetes. If your dog has serious oral problems or shows signs of tooth decay, you may want to set up an appointment at your vet’s office for a thorough cleaning.
Once serious disease and oral conditions have been ruled out or treated, it is time to start a regular oral hygiene regimen. You’ll be most successful if you start regularly cleaning your dog’s teeth when he’s a puppy so he becomes used to the sensations, but move slowly in introducing your pet to this new grooming procedure whether he is young or old.
The best way to prevent bad dog breath is to brush your dog’s teeth regularly 2-3 (or more) times per week. Don’t use human toothpaste, as it contains additives that can upset your dog’s stomach, and some even contain Xylitol as a sweetener which is toxic to pets. I prefer finger-sleeve style toothbrushes and enzymatic dog toothpaste to care for my dogs’ teeth, but not all dogs are as tolerant as mine. For dogs that aren’t keen on you brushing their teeth, many pet companies have introduced gels, foams, and pastes that don’t require manual brushing. There are also water additives for the really timid dogs that just won’t tolerate you picking around in their mouths.
Dental Chews & Treats
There are a lot of dental chews and treats in the market today, like Greenies, which claim to reduce plaque and tartar when fed regularly. Chews like this can help to keep your dog’s teeth clean, but they are no substitute for regular cleaning and brushing. I’ve also recently spotted some mint flavored treats and chews in the store. They inspired me to add fresh mint and parsley to a batch of homemade dog treats and dog food for a more natural solution for fresher breath. Try feeding raw carrots occasionally as a dental chew; they’re also a healthy treat. Keep in mind that mint and parsley can give some instant relief to stinky breath, but they don’t treat the underlying causes or conditions.
There are a lot of dental toys that are specially produced with grooves, ridges, and nubs that are designed to rub away plaque and tartar while chewing. These toys come in many different shapes and sizes, and they not only help with tooth maintenance, they can also be great for interactive fun and bonding time with your pet. Make sure to choose an toy that is appropriately sized for your dog’s mouth. For other tips on choosing dog toys see this handbook on choosing dog toys. You can also use hard, clean bones to help your pet “brush their teeth” by chewing.
Changes in Diet
If you’ve recently changed your pet’s food and are noticing bad breath, that change in diet could be the cause. The breath can be caused by the food’s ingredients or if the food is upsetting your pet’s stomach. If the breath persists, you may want to consider trying a different food. Wet foods, while they help increase the daily intake of water and are a more natural form of food, can increase bad breath; the particles can get stuck between teeth and collect bacteria.
We’ve covered the benefits of plain yogurt in several other blogs, but another fabulous use for a small amount of plain yogurt with live cultures is reducing the amount of odor causing bacteria in your dog’s mouth and stomach. Try adding a tablespoon to your dog’s food once daily, only if your pet’s stomach can tolerate it.
Bad breath can be mild or severe, and it is best to consult your vet before engaging in any of these bad breath remedies. There are a variety options to help you control your pet’s breath so that you can start enjoying those puppy kisses again. Not every solution will work for every pet, but a combination of techniques can have your pet’s breath back to normal in no-time. Good luck and be sure to let me know in the comments what techniques work best for your pets.