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Few smells are as unpleasant as a dog with bad breath. Your dog might think that you appreciate his kisses, but if he has bad breath, then getting up close and personal is the last thing that you want to do.
Bad dog breath isn’t just gross – it could also be a sign of a health problem. Before you pop your dog a doggy breath mint, take a moment to do a little research into the possible causes of bad breath and what you can do to treat and prevent it.
Causes of Bad Dog Breath
Dog owners tend to dismiss bad dog breath as just “dog breath,” but there is usually a very good reason behind the odor.
- Oral Hygiene and Periodontal Disease
The most common causes of bad breath in dogs are bad oral hygiene and periodontal disease. Just like in humans, the build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to the development of the bacteria that cause bad breath. If your dog is not a chewer and you do not regularly brush his teeth or have his teeth cleaned, then the most likely cause of his bad breath is plaque build-up.Over time, poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease. Too much plaque and tartar build-up can push the gums away from the teeth, exposing new areas for bacteria to develop. This not only inflames the dog’s gums, but it can lead to cavities, infection, tissue destruction, tooth loss, and even pus formation. Needless to say, it also leads to very, very bad breath.
- Unpleasant Dietary Habits
Dogs can be gross. Sometimes their habits translate directly into bad breath. If your dog regularly gets into the garbage, or has access to decomposing animal remains, then his bad breath could be the result of unsupervised snacking. Dogs also universally seem to love cat poop, and a household with cats can offer too much temptation for your dog to resist. Not only is this smelly, it is also unhygienic. As if cat poop wasn’t bad enough, some dogs eat their own poop or the poop of other dogs, a condition called coprophagia that causes bad breath in dogs and occasionally mild nausea in their horrified owners.
If your dog’s bad breath has a sweet or fruity smell to it, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Sweet, fruity breath is a symptom of diabetes, a serious but treatable condition. Talk with your veterinarian about the other symptoms of diabetes to look out for, like more frequent drinking and urination, and set up an appointment to get your dog examined.
- Kidney Disease
A dog that eats poop might have breath that smells like poop, but if your dog’s breath smells like urine, it is most likely not because she has been drinking pee. A urine odor to your dog’s breath is a warning sign of kidney disease, and warrants a visit to your veterinarian. Kidney disease is serious and could be a symptom of a larger medical problem.
- Liver Disease
If your dog’s breath is truly foul and she is also vomiting, exhibiting a lack of appetite, and has a yellow tinge to her gums, she may have a liver problem. Like kidney disease, liver problems can be a sign of a serious condition, and it is vital that you get your dog into the veterinarian or emergency clinic as soon as possible.
Treating Bad Dog Breath
As important as it is to understand the underlying issues behind malodorous doggie breath, what we really want to know is how to get rid of it. Curing bad dog breath depends on the cause, but luckily there are quite a few treatment options out there.
If plaque, tartar, and periodontal disease are behind your dog’s bad breath, then the best thing you can do is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to see if your dog is a candidate for a dental cleaning. Your veterinarian will run bloodwork to make sure your dog can handle anesthesia, and this appointment is also a great time to rule out any other potential causes for your dog’s bad breath. During the cleaning, your veterinarian may have to remove loose or damaged teeth, depending on the scope of the periodontal disease.
When it comes to unsupervised snacking, securing the trash and limiting your dog’s access to unpleasant outdoor finds, like roadkill, will resolve this issue. Placing the litter box outside of his reach is a simple solution that eliminates cat feces consumption, unless the cats are also pooping outside, and cleaning up directly after your dog can help prevent coprophagia.
Diabetes, kidney, and liver disease are all conditions that require treatment from a veterinarian. Once the underlying issue is resolved, your dog’s bad breath should go away, too.
Preventing Bad Breath in Dogs
The simplest way to prevent bad dog breath is to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis. Teeth brushing reduces plaque and promotes better oral hygiene, much as it does in humans, and with a little training, most dogs learn to enjoy having their teeth brushed. Dog toothpaste is formulated for dogs. Never brush your dog’s teeth with toothpaste meant for people, as it may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like xylitol.
Providing your dog with plenty of chew toys and dental treats helps them take care of their teeth naturally. Chewing prevents plaque and tartar build-up and relieves boredom, keeping your dog healthy and happy. Just make sure you pick dog chew toys appropriate for your dog’s size and age.
Small breeds may require more dental care than large breeds as they are more prone to periodontal disease, according to the AKC Health Foundation. Smaller breeds tend to have teeth that are closer together, which promotes plaque and tartar build-up, so make sure you provide them with plenty of chew toys from a young age and brush their teeth regularly.
Feeding your dog a quality, balanced diet, providing them with plenty of exercise and taking them to the veterinarian for regular check-ups can help prevent systemic disorders like diabetes. Plus, keeping your dog healthy helps avoid a host of other health problems, and can help your veterinarian pick up on the underlying cause of your dog’s bad breath before it gets too bad.
There are other oral health products aside from canine toothpaste on the market, including special oral health diets, dental chews, and water additives. Talk to your veterinarian about the products they recommend.
Say goodbye to your dog’s bad breath today by making an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss the possible causes for your dog’s bad breath and your treatment options. As with most health problems, prevention is the best cure, so pick up a tube of dog toothpaste and start brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a day to prevent oral decay.