Question: My dog has horrible breath. Is there anything I can do about this?
Answer: I’m guessing your dog is older and has never had his teeth cleaned. Usually the source of bad doggie breath is periodontal disease. More than likely, this is simply caused by plaque buildup, just like it is for us.
There are also a surprising number of other things that might be the culprit, too. Diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, trauma, sinusitis and cancer can all cause halitosis. A thorough vet check can rule out those possibilities. Additionally, if Max has questionable eating habits (like eating garbage or poop), obviously it will be hard for his breath to be minty fresh.
Again, the most likely cause is just poor dental hygiene. Halitosis seems to be more common in little dogs and the brachycephalic breeds (characterized by their short-nosed, flat-faced features, like pugs, Boston terriers, boxers and Pekingese). One reason for the propensity of the little guys and brachycephalic breeds to have dental-related problems is because their teeth are so close together.
Dogs in the wild don’t have to deal with plaque buildup because gnawing on plants, bones and fur is pretty good for their teeth. Correspondingly, I’ve noticed a diet of strictly canned dog food isn’t that great for your dog’s teeth. That’s why l always recommend dry dog food with perhaps a splash of hot water or just a spoon of canned food mixed in.
Besides Max’s teeth, I think overall that kibble is better for your dog’s gastrointestinal system. Ignoring your dog’s bad breath can have serious health repercussions in the long run, as well. If the bacterial issues in his mouth get bad enough, it can literally cause his major organs to shut down. It’s much easier to just get in a routine of brushing your dog’s teeth.
I would suggest going to your vet for a thorough dental checkup. He’ll want to rule out any other causes for his bad breath. More than likely, he will suggest a teeth cleaning. Going forward as a preventative thing, l would make some minor lifestyle changes for your pooch. These should include a good dry dog food, things for him to chew on that naturally scrape his teeth, (which your vet can recommend), and brushing his teeth.
It’s easier to get a puppy used to this than an older dog, but if you take baby steps with your older pet, he’ll get used to it. You’ll have to use “dog tooth paste” (available at the pet store) because human toothpaste is bad for Max’s tummy. You don’t necessarily have to do this every day, but three times a week is probably a good idea.
To get your dog used to having his teeth brushed, start by using a small rag to go over his teeth. This will get him acclimated to having his teeth fooled with. Then you can transition to a doggie toothbrush. I started early with my pup just by rubbing my finger on her upper and lower teeth periodically.
Don’t be in a hurry. Take your time, keep the brushing episodes brief at first, and give plenty of praise for your dog’s cooperation. I regard dental hygiene for our dogs to be another element of potentially extending their life. And in time, most dogs actually come to enjoy their periodic teeth brushing episodes.
Originally from Louisiana, Gregg Flowers is a local dog trainer who “teaches dogs and trains people.” Contact him at email@example.com or dogsbestfriendflorida.com.