Happy dog on the lawn

Have you ever leaned in for a hug or smooch from your beloved dog and been startled by their bad breath?  If so, you are not alone!  Just because dogs are animals does not mean they do not need proper dental care.  In fact, routine and consistent dental care, such as brushing can preserve dental health and even protect overall health! Don’t worry; your dog’s breath does not have to be constantly minty fresh!  But, if it smells particularly bad it is probably time to start getting consistent with dental care.  And, if you have a new puppy, start now so that they will be used to routine dental care and will happily comply as they grow older.

First, it is important to note that if your dog has bad breath and it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or loss of appetite you should take your dog to the veterinarian as the symptoms could be more than simply poor dental health.  But, if your dog just has some foul-smelling breath and is otherwise healthy you can probably make some improvements in the dental health department.  If you do not already have a canine toothbrush kit, getting one is a great place to start.  It is important to emphasize that you should invest in a canine kit because dogs should not use human toothpaste because it can upset their stomach.  Additionally, canine toothbrushes are designed specifically for a dog’s mouth and there is even canine mouthwash available.  Introduce the toothbrush slowly – a few times each week you can gently rub your dog’s gums and teeth with your finger or a toothbrush to get them used to the idea and procedure.  Once they are used to that, you can begin to introduce toothpaste.  Make it a gentle and relaxing process so that it is not stressful for you or you dog and so that you can take your time and do an optimal job brushing their teeth.

Fortunately, dogs rarely get cavities but they do often get tartar buildup on their teeth.  Plaque and tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis and inflamed/painful gums.  While dogs cannot care for their teeth themselves by brushing, there are things they can chew on that will help improve their dental health. There are special bones and other chew toys designed specifically to help clean teeth and gums while your dog gets to enjoy a special treat. WebMD points out that research supports the use of dog treats and chew toys to help improve dental health, “Dogs that chew actively have less plaque build-up. And some types of dog dental treats and diets can reduce plaque by nearly 70%. How do they do this? Simply the mechanical action of chewing can make a difference. In one study, increasing the diameter of kibble by 50% led to a 42% reduction in tartar. In the same study, coating the products with a substance called polyphosphate further reduced tartar by 55%. It prevents plaque from turning into tartar by isolating calcium on teeth.”  If you are uncertain where to begin, consult your veterinarian who will be able to offer dental health guidance specific to your dog and your lifestyle.