Here at TurLife Changers, we’re dog people. Our dogs are part of the family—our constant companions during long walks, backyard barbecues, and lazy evenings in front of the TV.
But as anyone with a dog knows…their breath isn’t always the best. And getting a big, slobbery kiss from your furry four-legged friend is a lot less pleasant when their breath makes you want to open a window or light a candle.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh. And in this article we’ll share our 7 best tips to help you do it. But before we get to those tips, we first need to understand why dogs get bad breath in the first place.
The Most Common Cause of Bad Breath in Dogs
If your dog’s breath stinks, there’s a good chance it’s caused by bacteria inhabiting the mouth and further down the GI tract. These bacteria are usually caused by a buildup of tartar and plaque—which are, in turn, caused by poor oral hygiene.
And that makes sense. After all, anyone’s breath could start to smell if they stopped brushing and flossing on a regular basis.
Bacteria in a dog’s mouth can enter the bloodstream and affect distant organs. “There are three organs that are especially susceptible to the spread of oral bacteria: the heart, the liver, and the kidneys” says Catherine Barnette, DVM.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to help improve your dog’s oral hygiene. Here are our 7 best tips to do just that—and to help keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh in the process:
Tip #1: Brush Your Dog’s Teeth (Yes, You Can Do That)
Brushing your dog’s teeth might not sound like a fun idea, especially if they’re not well trained. But the fact remains that brushing their teeth is one of the most effective things you can do to help maintain good oral hygiene. You don’t necessarily have to do it twice a day, though; many experts say that brushing your dog’s teeth once a week is good enough.
If you do decide to give brushing a try, here’s a key point to keep in mind: you’ll need a brand of toothpaste that’s made for dogs. Human toothpastes may not be safe for dogs, especially if swallowed in large amounts. You should also use a soft-bristled toothbrush made for dogs. For smaller dogs, finger brushes are very effective; for larger dogs, a toothbrush with a longer handle will give you better reach. For a list of oral health products that are safe and effective, check out this list of approved products by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
Bonus tip: depending on your dog’s temperament, keeping your dog calm enough to brush their teeth may not be easy. But we’ve found that giving our dog one of these calming chews helps to calm them down enough to make it easier to get the job done with minimal fuss. The combination of CBD, chamomile, and valerian root is a healthy and relaxing combination for any dog. In our experience, it helps make the brushing experience much more enjoyable—for you and your dog.
Tip #2: Give a Dog a Bone (And a Treat)
If plaque is allowed to stay on the surface of your dog’s teeth too long, it can harden into tartar—which can be a contributing factor to both receding gums and gingivitis. We’ve talked about brushing, but brushing isn’t the only way to remove plaque. Hard dog treats and bones have the benefit of helping to scrape tartar and plaque off the surface of the teeth while they chew. You can also find dog dental treats, which are specifically intended to improve your dog’s oral health.
Tip #3: Consider a Water Additive
Another easy treatment for bad breath involves adding an oral health additive to your dog’s water. These products contain a combination of enzymes, chlorophyll, and other ingredients that help to fight the bacteria that cause bad breath. They also contain an ingredient like chlorine dioxide that can help to neutralize bad odors, so they can provide both an immediate and a long-term improvement in your dog’s breath.
Tip #4: Try Feeding Them Probiotics
Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help to promote a healthy digestive system. And a healthy digestive system is better able to defend itself against the “bad” bacteria that cause bad breath.
So what kind of probiotics should you give your dog?
It’s important to understand that humans and dogs have different digestive systems—so you should not necessarily give your dog the same probiotics you might take for yourself. Consider finding a probiotic food or supplement made specifically for dogs, to ensure that they’re getting the right strains of gut-healthy bacteria.
Tip #5: Make Sure They Aren’t Eating Anything They Shouldn’t
Here’s a potential issue that you may not have considered: pay attention to what your dog might be eating when you’re not around. It’s not unheard of for dogs to drink from the toilet or eat from the trash can—and there’s no telling what they might end up putting in their mouth! We’ve found that simply keeping the toilet lid shut and using a garbage can with a lid can go a long way in making sure our dogs don’t eat any foul-smelling foods.
Tip #6: For a Quick Fix, Chop Some Parsley
One of the more common home remedies for bad breath in dogs is to sprinkle some fresh parsley (some people say dill works, too) on your dog’s food. These herbs act like a natural breath mint and also have some beneficial cleansing properties.
Tip #7: If All Else Fails, Take Them to the Vet
A good vet will check your dog’s teeth and gums for signs of inflammation and periodontal disease, and can help suggest solutions—including prescription-strength dental products that might be more effective than at-home remedies.
Also, keep in mind that while bad breath in a dog is usually the result of poor oral hygiene and/or periodontal concerns, it’s possible that bad breath could be the result of a more severe health condition.. If your dog’s breath smells foul, fruity, or like urine, that might be a sign there’s something more serious going on. If that’s the case, then it’s time to give the vet a call.
Bad breath in dogs is an unpleasant condition, but a treatable one. And here’s more good news: once you get a handle on your dog’s oral health, it shouldn’t be that difficult to maintain that hygiene and keep their breath smelling fresh.