Dog bad breath has a variety of terrible outcomes. If dog breath is preventing your dog from receiving appropriate affection, keeping children or guests away, then it’s time to learn more about dental care for dogs and the issues around dog bad breath. A bad dog breath solution could be something non-serious, or it could mean there is an underlying condition that requires the attention of a veterinarian.
The Anatomy of a Dog’s Mouth
To better understand the factors that affect dog breath, it helps to know a little bit about the anatomy of a dog’s mouth and how the teeth and tongue are used.
First, dogs are naturally carnivorous, and a dog’s teeth are designed to suit that purpose. A dog’s teeth need to be able to tear meat, then chew what could be fibrous and tough meat. Dog’s front teeth are called the incisors, and they located in between the canine teeth. While the incisors are flat, the canine teeth are noticeably longer and sharper. The incisors are considered the biting teeth, used for self defense, as well as to bite into larger hunks of meat for eating. The canines are used to rip and tear meat. Behind the canine teeth are the premolars, where the mashing and grinding of the meat takes place. At the far back are the molars, which do the heavy work of chewing the meat before it’s processed down in the dog’s system. All of these teeth are sharper than a human’s teeth because they are meant to process meat over any other type of diet.
Like humans, the tongue of a dog is a muscular organ with taste buds. The dog’s tongue also has salivary glands, which secrete saliva into the mouth. Dogs use their tongues to move food around in their mouth. They also form a shallow ladle with their tongues order to lap up water. A dog’s tongue is also central to its ability to cool itself. By allowing the tongue to have access to air flow, the dog can cool down when overheated. Finally, unlike humans, a dog also uses its tongue to clean itself. It’s worth it to note that a healthy and happy dog will groom itself using its tongue at least daily.
Potential Causes of Bad Dog Breath
There are many potential causes of bad dog breath, so it is logical to find the cause of the bad dog breath in order to treat it effectively. Many over the counter remedies for bad dog breath don’t work for long periods of time because they are treating the symptom and not the cause. Since some potential causes of bad dog breath can be detrimental to the dog’s health, it’s important to figure out what the origin of the bad breath is.
If the dog is eating rancid meat or dog food, long-dead animals from outside, or too much junk food or table scraps, this can lead to bad dog breath. Just like humans, dogs need fresh food for a healthy diet. Remember that many table scraps will have ingredients that are inappropriate for dogs, including sugar, added chemicals and high amounts of added sodium. Eating a poor diet will contribute to bad breath at least on a temporary basis.
Lack of Sufficient Water
When a dog drinks water, the water lubricates the mouth as well as cleanses it. Food particles that have become stuck in the mouth can be washed down during the drinking process. If a dog lacks access to sufficient amounts of clean water, the production of saliva is inhibited, leading to dry mouth and bad breath. Old food particles will stay lodged in the mouth, where they will give off bad odor. Of course, there are other consequences of lack of sufficient water, but bad breath will be the first sign.
Dogs can incur oral wounds that are easy to go undetected without close inspection. If an oral sore is allowed to fester untreated, the resulting foul odor will affect the dog’s breath.
Just like humans, dogs can get cavities, chip and crack teeth and suffer from rotting teeth. Tartar and plaque build up is another way that the process of rotting teeth can begin. Bad breath is just one of the effects of such a condition.
Gums that are receding from the tooth leaving pockets that can become infected with bacteria and germs. This quickly leads to bad dog breath.
Since dogs use their tongues to groom themselves, they can carry odorous bacteria and germs from bodily wounds into their mouths from the tongue. If the dog has a wound on its body, it will spend significant time cleaning that wound, which could easily lead to a bad breath situation.
When to See a Vet About Bad Dog Breath
Sometimes you can treat the causes of bad dog breath at home. Other times, it’s critical to the dog’s overall health to seek the attention of a qualified veterinarian. If you notice any of these additional symptoms along with your dog’s bad breath, it’s time to see a vet.
The Dog Has Stopped Eating
If the dog has stopped eating on his routine basis, the bad breath could be caused by an internal, digestive problem rather than something superficial. It could also be due to an impacted tooth, and abscess, or something else that you can’t see. In the case of a dog that has stopped eating, you should visit the vet immediately.
The Dog Has Stopped Drinking
A dog’s natural instinct is to drink water to get the hydration their bodies need. If your dog won’t drink his water, he might have a dry mouth, which leads to bad breath. The cause could be anything from depression, to poor water quality, to an open oral wound. In any event, a veterinarian visit is warranted.
The Bad Breath Smells Like Urine
If there is a distinctive urine odor emanating from the dog’s mouth, this is a common sign of kidney failure. An emergency vet visit is in order.
The Bad Breath Smells Like Feces
If the dog’s bad breath occasionally smells like feces, there can be many causes, since the tongue is used to for self-grooming. If the breath chronically smells like feces though, something more nefarious may be the cause, including an intestinal blockage that needs urgent medical attention.
The Dog Breath Smells Like Sugar
Diabetes is a disease that can afflict dogs as well as humans. One of the most common signs that diabetes is present is breath that smells sugary. This is an attempt by the body to rid itself of excess sugar through the breath. Canine diabetes is treatable by a qualified vet. Since this is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, it’s not recommended that you try to treat it at home.
The Breath Smells Like Vomit
If this is the case, it’s likely that the dog has been throwing up without you seeing it; possibly in the yard or while roaming. Chronic vomiting is not only indicative of an intestinal upset. It can lead to advanced oral decay and esophageal damage. It’s critical to consult with the dog’s veterinarian to diagnose the cause and treat it.
How to Make Dog Breath Better
Assuming that none of the above signs and symptoms is present, it’s appropriate for a dog owner to attempt to make the bad dog breath better at home, or to prevent bad dog breath in the first place. Following are some ways to prevent and treat bad dog breath, and how to make dog breath better.
Change the Diet
There are many formulations of commercial dog food on the market. The one you’re currently using may not be complementary to your dog’s digestive system. Depending on your dog’s age, it may be difficult for your dog to chew or digest. Consider altering your dog’s diet and see if that solves his bad breath problem.
Brush the Teeth
Daily canine teeth brushing is recommended by many veterinarians as part of health dog oral care. This practice will help to keep tartar and plaque at bay, which in turn will help prevent bad dog breath. To get your dog used to daily brushing and dog oral care, begin the practice as early during puppyhood as possible. Use only veterinarian recommended canine toothpaste brands.
Change Water Often
Since dogs use their tongues like ladles to drink water, their saliva and other germs quickly get into the water bowl. Change the dog’s drinking water often. Be sure to use soap to wash out the bowl itself at least once a day. This will ensure that the dog is not drinking germ laden water that could contribute to bad breath. It will also encourage the dog to drink more water, if it’s a fresh and clean supply.
Provide Chew Toys and Bones
Chew toys are more than entertainment for your dog. The act of chewing helps to clean the teeth and keep teeth and gums healthy and strong. Toys should be washed on a regular basis to get rid of germ build up. Rawhide bones that are specifically made for dogs are the only bones your dog should get at home. Leftover bones from home meals can contain splinters that could harm the dog’s mouth.
Inspect the Mouth on a Regular Basis
One of the best ways to ensure good dog oral care is to visually inspect his mouth on a regular basis. This can be done quickly and easily during a pleasant and calm interaction between owner and pet. Done in this way, the dog will view the inspection in a non-aggressive manner. Regular mouth inspections should include looking for things like reddened or swollen gums, broken teeth, discolored teeth, fissures in the tongue or teeth, and of course any signs of foreign items that may have become lodged in the mouth.
Provide Oral Health Doggie Dental Treats
Certain doggy treats have been specially formulated to assist with dental hygiene for canines. Ask your vet to recommend one to you, since not all treats marketed for canine dental hygiene actually do the job.
Add Dog Breath Freshener to Drinking Water
If your dog is amenable to it, you could try adding some dog breath freshener to his drinking water. The freshener should be a natural freshener, such as a drop or two of peppermint or spearmint essential oil. This will help to keep your dog’s breath smelling fresh each time he drinks. But if your dog dislikes it and refuses to drink because of the minty addition, discontinue the practice. There may also be a commercial dog breath freshener that you can try. Again, check with your veterinarian for their recommendation on brands to try.
Halitosis is just as unpleasant in a dog as it is with humans. But understanding what reasons can lead to bad dog breath is a big part of finding a suitable solution for the problem of bad dog breath. The most important thing to remember is that if your dog is exhibiting any of the secondary symptoms noted above, a visit to the vet is called for as soon as possible. Bad dog breath can be a sign of something serious, in which case you’ll want to find the underlying cause. If your dog is perfectly healthy otherwise, you can probably manage his bad breath with the suggestions mentioned above.
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