The day you ask yourself “what can I do about bad breath in a dog” is the day to pick up the phone and make a vet appointment. Stinky breath means some sort of tooth or gum issue and possibly even pain, the extent of which can only be determined by your trusty vet.
It seems to be a widely held belief that bad breath is normal, all part of being a dog. In fact it usually signals some kind of problem. The sooner you get him looked at, the sooner it will all be sorted.
UPDATED JULY 19, 2018
Bad breath is usually caused by gum or dental disease, but not always. Other reasons include –
- Kidney disease/kidney failure
- Ingesting a toxin
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Tumours in the mouth
- Your dog is simply eating poop
- Bad breath
- Your dog pawing at his mouth
- Struggling to eat dry food or cookies
- Withdrawn or not himself
- Changes in behaviour
A routine examination of your dog’s mouth will quickly show evidence of periodontal disease, but x rays are usually needed to get a more complete picture. If his teeth are fine and there is no obvious explanation for bad breath, your vet will want other tests to check for possible causes. Those tests can include: blood tests, urine, ultrasound…
Treatment will, of course, depend on the cause. A course of antibiotics may be all that’s needed, or sedation for a thorough check up and a cleaning. Once he’s in your dog’s mouth and x rays have been taken, teeth may need to be pulled. Don’t worry, your vet will explain the scenarios to you.
I know many senior pet parents worry about putting their dogs under anesthesia, so be sure to have a conversation with your vet about what is involved. Red had dental surgery a couple of times when she was over 13, and even with heart issues she was fine.
There are anesthesia free options if you’re interested in going down that route, but do your research and be aware of any limitations there may be. For example, can a thorough enough cleaning be done on a dog that is awake.
If bad breath is the result of your dog’s diet, a change may be recommended, and if tests reveal another reason, your vet will devise an appropriate treatment plan.
Just like we keep our teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing and cleaning, the same can be done for our dogs. Luckily there are so many dog dental care products, you’re bound to find something that he is at least okay with.
Brushing your dog’s teeth every day is ideal, but isn’t always realistic, which it certainly is not with our dogs. Even if you can only manage a couple of times a week, it is better than nothing. Toothbrushes come in a variety of sizes, and some even fit on your finger, while toothpaste comes in many flavours.
If there’s no way you can use a toothbrush a dental wipe may work. How about toothpaste on a cotton pad? A liquid antiplaque solution is for adding to your dog’s drinking water, powders can be sprinkled onto food or sprays for the mouth. Hard chew toys, bones and dental chews will also help.
Red and dental disease
Red has had some issues with her dental health over the years, ranging from a mild infection to dental surgery. We didn’t adopt her until she was 8, and her previous owners didn’t take the best care of her. Red is blind which is probably the biggest reason she kicks and screams if you go anywhere near her mouth. A toothbrush is out of the question, so the best I can do is tooth gel on a cotton pad a couple of times a week and Plaque Off added to her food once a day. I can’t get near Jack so Plaque Off and dental chews are the only things I can offer him.
Get off the internet
Hey, I search the internet for answers all the time, but in this case I have to advise you not to waste time doing that because you don’t yet know what’s going on. See your vet first for an answer, then research!!
Bad breath in a dog – conclusion
Make sure your vet takes a good look in your dog’s mouth as part of his regular checkups. Staying on top of oral health is a lot easier, and less expensive, then fixing problems.
Does your dog let you brush his teeth? What is your dog’s dental care routine? Is he easygoing about it, or does he fight you all the way? Which products have you had the most success with? Sharing helps others so leave a comment below or on my senior dog Facebook page.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
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