Your dog’s mouth stinks. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. If pet parents don’t attend to the dog’s teeth, oral disease can hit the kidneys, liver and heart, and seriously affect a dog’s quality of life. Easily preventable in most cases with the fancy device seen below, there are causes beyond lack of tooth brushing wherein dogs have bad breath. Here are some reasons your dog’s mouth might stink, which should diagnosed by your pet’s veterinarian. As a diligent pet parent, you are your dog’s first line of defense against the offensive odors emanating from his oral cavity.
Smelly Jowl Alert
I pride myself on keeping my dog’s mouth clean. He gets his teeth brushed every night, eats better food than I, and gets a meaty bone every other week to work on. So when my beloved Cocker Spaniel had a smelly mouth that would not go away despite twice daily brushing, off to the vet we went. The vet later told me that he knew what Dexter’s diagnosis was the moment we entered the exam room. Lip fold dermatitis has a very distinct stink.
Dogs with saggy or thick lips and/or droopy jowls are prime candidates for lip fold dermatitis. That small area where the lip ever so gently “folds” and pockets of saliva can pool inside can harbor bacteria, and eventually produce a very offensive odor. In addition to the lips, a fold dermatitis may affect other parts of a dog’s body, wherever sagging skin causes skin folds to occur. So think of a Shar Pei with all those thick wrinkles. Clumber Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and any dog with thick jowls probably have a pet parent who will relate to the smell the jowls can produce.
We were prescribed an antifungal shampoo for the area, an astringent to clean out the jowls, and an ointment to apply to the area. After two weeks, the issue cleared up. In the summer months, when panting is more frequent, we noticed the smell starting to rear it’s ugly scent. To keep it at bay and to keep the jowls clean and free of bacteria, we use EvoraPet sprinkled on his food once a day and wipe with Mal-A-Ket pads. Have your dog’s veterinarian show you how to keep the folds clean and exactly where they are located.
The goal is to keep the lip folds clean and dry. Teeth brushing and checking your dog’s mouth regularly will ensure that this problem doesn’t get the best of you or your dog. Clean your dog’s lip folds daily, especially after a meal so that food debris removed. You don’t want any fungi or bacteria to call a dog’s mouth a home.
We brush our teeth daily, and unless you provide the same level of care for your canine’s canines, bad teeth are likely to rear their ugly crowns. I’ve talked to dog parents whose dogs needed teeth extracted at ages 2 and 3 due to dental hygiene neglect. At the very least, brush at least every other day or even three times a week. Make it a routine, make it fun, and even better, try my surefire tips to get your dog used to the toothbrush in no time.
A piece of food can get caught in a tooth. Taking it one step further, a tumor within the mouth, throat, palate, gums, or tongue can cause an odor. Check your dog’s gums daily – which can be done during tooth brushing. If anything is found or suspected, or if the odor continues, seek veterinary care.
Internal Organ Problems
Liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal issue are often diagnosed after a pet parent reports their dog has developed bad breath.
Diabetes is often associated with fruity or sweet-smelling breath. Has your dog been drinking or urinating more?
Breath that has a urine scent to it might be indicative of kidney disease.
Bad breath in conjunction with vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellowed gums or whites of the eyes can be a sign of liver issues.
Something could be stuck in your dog’s mouth, between his teeth, or even in his throat or stomach and causing bad breath.
A runny nose, inflammation of the sinuses, a sinus infection, or any sort of allergic reaction that is chronic can cause bad breath in dogs. Always see a vet if a dog has a runny nose that is not getting better, particularly if associated with any other symptoms or if the discharge is yellow or green.
If all of the above have been ruled out and the bottom line is that your dog’s teeth need to be brushed, this long time dog mom and advocate for canine better health is here to say do it. I can teach you how, step by step. Here are ten steps to getting your dog used to teeth brushing. Patience is key.
Water additives are the easy to dispense drops of liquid designed to be added to the dog’s water bowl and ingested with a fresh supply of water every time Fido takes a drink. Some manufacturers claim the molecules in the water additives help break down plaque before it can form on a dog’s teeth. A water additive is pretty much like a mouth wash in people. I use a mouth wash but I would not rely on it solely to keep plaque from forming on my teeth. The only device that can do that is, you guessed it, a toothbrush with dog-safe toothpaste added.
Further, be clear that if you use a water additive for dogs that it absolutely does not contain Xylitol, which can shut a dog’s kidneys down.
The friction of a toothbrush on the surface of a tooth is the best defense against plaque. A water additive can be helpful, as a start and as an additional defense against plaque.
According to a 2013 analysis conducted by VPI Pet Insurance, the average cost to prevent dental disease in pets is $171.82, but it costs $531.71 to treat dental disease. “We brush our teeth each day, and daily oral hygiene is recommended for dogs and cats from the time the permanent teeth erupt,” explains Dr. Jan Bellows, president of the American Veterinary Dental College. “
If you think that eating pretzels scrapes tartar off your teeth, then by all means believe that eating hard dog food does the same for a dog.
What I Use
For pet parents who want to step up and do the right thing for their dog, start with brushing your dog’s teeth at least once a day. I do this every night before bed. If your dog does not like his teeth brushed or you’ve never tried, follow these steps and let me know how it goes. Never ever scold a dog and take your time: Their lives are so short. Be kind, be gentle, and be patient.
EvoraPet probiotic oral care: One scoop over food at dinnertime: It is odorless and tasteless and inexpensive. EvoraPet is a tasteless and odorless powder that you sprinkle on your pet’s food once a day. This oral care probiotic sprinkle crowds out the bad bacteria that cause bad breath and will gently and safely whiten your pet’s teeth. I discovered this product at the Global Pet Expo several years ago, and what a game changer it has been.
CET Vanilla Mint toothpaste: Most dogs like mint flavor and the sweetness of the vanilla makes it tastier to them. CET is a dog-safe toothpaste. it comes in other flavors, too. Never use a human toothpaste on dogs: It can harm them or worse. The CET enzymatic toothpaste provides natural antibacterial action and to inhibit the formation of plaque. I use a child’s toothbrush for Dexter, who has thicker jowls and I have a bit of wiggle room. For smaller jowls or less cooperative dogs, a finger toothpaste is something to aim for as time goes on. You might need to stay with a finger toothbrush, and that is fine.
Annie’s Pooch Pops Muttkins: If you’ve followed this blog and/or our Facebook page for any length of time, you’ve probably seen our dog, Dexter, in a zen mode like the photo below. When your dog chews on bones, the chewing action scrapes away plaque, may help control tartar buildup, and helps stimulate gums. A bone does not replace a toothbrush, but I do allow him, with supervision, to gnaw on this bone. He gets a new one every few weeks, and that is because I toss the bones out to avoid bacteria. They come in a variety of sizes. I am not a fan of rawhide nor do I recommend it.
I put my reputation on the line here and have proof of how this works: Not once did my last Cocker Spaniel need a professional under-anesthesia dental cleaning in her entire 15 years of life. The folks at the vet used to be amazed at how tartar-free her teeth remained, and I attribute it to teeth brushing, being diligent, and taking literally 5 minutes or less per day to save her life. I feel as if I was gifted with extra years and healthy organs because of my efforts.
Never second guess nor wait if your dog develops chronic bad breath. The old adage that dogs are well, dogs and live with bad breath is simply just that: an old adage that needs to be buried in the back yard along with the old bones.
Here’s to good oral health.
(note: I am not being paid to tell you about the above products and you should always check with your dog’s veterinarian before starting oral care at home, especially if you never brushed teeth before; there can be cracks, breaks, or worse. I am sharing what has worked for us.)
Does your dog ever have bad breath? What has helped your pooch?