Is your dog blowing you away with its bad breath? If you're inclined to turn your head away whenever your canine bestie so much as pants in your direction, it might be time to look into why your dog's mouth smells like something crawled in and died there. Dog halitosis is conquerable but can sometimes result from significant medical issues.
Let's start with the most obvious reason for the stench—a lack of dental hygiene. Just like human beings, domestic dogs are generally social animals. They're not loners roaming the prairie, and as such, there's a real incentive to toothbrushing and ensuring teeth look healthy, and exhalations aren't off-putting. Try dental chews or other VOHC-approved anti-plaque products if your dog isn't keen on brushing, even when using pet-specific toothpaste. A weekly brush suffices if more frequent toothbrushing isn't possible.
Tartar build-up and gingivitis result from so-called bad bacteria in the mouth. This imbalance is a consequence of not brushing away food particles that get stuck in the gum line. And once there's tartar, it's easier for strands of hair and other gunk to lodge themselves where teeth meet gums, resulting in a stinky mouth. Brushing your dog's teeth prevents periodontal disease, pain, and tooth loss, and bacteria have less of a chance of entering the bloodstream to affect other organs.
A diet high in carbs and sugars will put your dog at risk for dental disease because, unlike humans, doggies don't produce amylase, which breaks down carbohydrates, in their saliva. Furthermore, some dog owners opt for raw or home-cooked diets, and the former can introduce Salmonella bacteria into the mouth. Acid reflux from eating fatty foods and heavily spiced and seasoned table scraps may also make you pinch your nose around Fido.
Dogs explore the world with their mouths and put them pretty much everywhere, so it's not surprising that objects that don't belong in an oral cavity find their way inside. Think remnants of chew toys, bone shards, cloth, splinters, and other debris that can be uncomfortable and prone to decay and infection if stuck. If you can't remove the foreign body, you'll need to head to the vet for assistance. Chewing hard objects can also cause broken teeth or lacerations, which can become infected and require antibiotics.
Sure, eating poop will make your dog's breath smell like poop, but eating toxic plants, for example, can lead to vomiting and bad breath too. Your dog will also throw up if it consumes something indigestible. In addition, your dog may go around with smoker's breath if it decides to chow down on any cigarettes you have lying around.
Your dog's open-mouthed assaults on your nose may point to severe health problems like kidney and liver disease. The former leads to a urea build-up, making your dog's breath smell like pee. Kidney disease also causes oral ulcers that can become malodorous. Liver disease also means a build-up of toxins, giving rise to halitosis. Finally, senior dogs are at particular risk for tumors. These masses bring about tissue death and, naturally, rotten whiffs.
Healthy puppies can have good, verging on sweet breath that owners love. Adult dogs should have neutral-smelling mouths. If they've been digging around the trash, it can take a couple of days for any unpleasant odors to depart.
Smaller dog breeds are often babied with soft foods rather than dry ones, which help clean tooth surfaces. They also tend to have more significant oral health issues due to years of questionable breeding practices.
Try cutting up some antioxidant-rich herbs in your dog's dry food for a natural solution to knockout breath. The raw source of chlorophyll coupled with the fresh scent of mint or parsley can do deodorizing wonders. These herbs are best consumed in moderation, but parsley, for example, isn't safe if your dog is pregnant. Consult your vet to see what's suitable for your particular pup.
Do your research on some of the gel and spray products on the market—they're not all created equal. Your vet might also recommend accompanying each meal with digestive enzymes from half a teaspoon of crushed pineapple and probiotics such as a teaspoon of plain organic kefir to help the oral and gut microbiome.
Your dog might be ready to visit the dentist—vets wear many hats—around age three, but your vet might feel that your adult dog doesn't need a professional cleaning until it's much older. A thorough cleanup every two years should be fine, and anesthesia is key to not causing trauma for your dog and ensuring optimal dental outcomes. Sniff your dog's breath after an appointment for an on-point benchmark.
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