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Trying to fix a dog’s bad breath? What you need to know.

Fix Dogs Bad Breath

It’s a fact, that our canine friends may get stinky breath. It may be a periodic thing, or it might be an ongoing problem. But when you are starting to keep away from your usual cuddles with your pooch because of it, you know it’s time to take action. If you want to fix the bad breath of your dogs, it’s a good idea to first understand what might be causing it. After all, what would be the point of simply trying to mask the smell, rather than trying to get rid of it!


Medical Name for Dog's Bad BreathThe Medical Bit

There is an actual term for bad breath in a dog, and it’s Canine Halitosis (just in case your vet or anyone else is trying to wow you with the scientific name). The bad odor occurs due to a build up of bacteria, and when your dog opens their mouth and the air hits, phewweee! The smell might have you running for the hills. It’s a very similar case with humans. You’ll now yourself, even if you brush and floss regularly, there may still be some days you feel your “morning breath” is a bit ripe. This is the same principle – while we’re sleeping, we’re not eating – unless you are a multi-tasking sleepwalker – and as a result our mouths aren’t self cleaning with saliva and the chewing action doing their things. As a result, bacteria can start to build up in our mouths by morning time. Hoe can this bacteria build up happen so quickly?


The Biology Bit

(If this doesn’t interest you, just skip to the next paragraph)

Canine Oral BacteriaIf you’ve studied biology at all, you may already know this, but bacteria have a different way of multiplying than viruses. Bacteria divide and multiply – so, one becomes two, two becomes four, four becomes eight, eight becomes sixteen etc. That’s a minuscule amount of bacteria to be talking about, but imagine 500,000 becoming 1,000,000! That puts it into context, and helps explain why bacterial illnesses come on so quickly. If you’ve ever had tonsillitis you will now you can go from feeling OK, to being quite ill within about half a day. Viruses are completely different, and have to use our own bodies’ cells to replicate. Therefore, their time scale is a lot slower. Again, think about the last cold you had – chances are you start to feel a little unwell a day or two before the symptoms really kick in.

So let’s paint a picture here, if there are bacteria in your dog’s mouth, then they can multiply very fast. The more bacteria, the smellier the breath, so it’s not rocket science to work out that getting reducing bacteria is key to helping get rid of bad doggy breath.


How does bacteria build up in your dog’s mouth?

This is critical to solving the problem for you and your dog. However, there are some different reasons why your dog may be getting a higher than normal build up of bacteria in their mouth.

Build up of plaque

A sticky substance that naturally desposits on the teeth over time. If not cleaned off, it will continue to build up and become tartar.

Build up of tartar

A more permanent coating of harder material that tends to form from the base of the teeth, where they meet the gums. Tartar forms when plaque mixes with minerals in the saliva and becomes more solid. Once tartar forms, the only way to get it off is with proper dental treatment.

Gum disease

Dog Eating a CookieGum disease can develop when tartar starts to build up and bacteria get trapped around the gum line. Tartar build up can make it a lot harder to keep teeth clean, and create natural pockets for bacteria to hide in and grow. If left to fester, gums can actually start to recede from the disease, and long term can impact on the bony material in the jaw. Once this happens, the bone won’t grow back!

Eating bad things

If your dog eats what they shouldn’t, then their natural balance of oral bacteria can also be affected. Whether it’s human food that they shouldn’t really eat (think sugary, sweet stuff) or their own or other dog’s poop (not very nice I know, but it does happen!). This latter habit will deposit bacteria straight from fecal matter into your dog’s mouth, and is it any wonder that would cause bad breath?

Dental Checks at the Vet



More serious conditions

If you have worked to eliminate oral bacteria from your dog and there is still bad breath, then you should definitely go to the vet to check for gastro-intestinal conditions. It’s possible there may be something else going on with your dog that you can’t fix yourself.


How to reduce oral bacteria for your dog

There are a number of ways you can help to keep oral bacteria to a minimum, thereby reducing the chances of bad breath in your dog. So let’s take a look at what you can do:

Regular Dental Checks

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, make sure your vet checks your dog’s teeth as part of routine visits. Our vet always weighs dogs, and checks their teeth, at every visit – even if you’re there for a simple vaccination! This is good practice and helps identify any problems before they become more difficult to deal with.

Manual Teeth Cleaning

Yes, as it sounds this means with a doggy toothbrush and toothpaste! This might be recommended by your vet, or it might be something you choose to do just because you want to. Correctly done and using special canine toothpaste, you will certainly not do any harm to your dog’s mouth. Human toothpaste should not be used. And it will definitely help to reduce plaque and tartar build up. Sometimes dogs don’t need this at all, and sometimes it might be something that you need to introduce later on in your dog’s life. Your vet will always keep you right, if they are regularly looking at your dog’s teeth.

Specialist Dog Chews

It might be enough to use specialist chews – i.e. ones that are specifically developed to keep teeth clean. Pedigree Dentastix and Hilife Dental Chews spring to mind here. Our German Shepherd loved the HiLife Dental Chews, and we never had to clean his teeth once as a result. He liked the Dentastix too, but these were chewed up much more quickly. The HiLife Dental Chews took a lot longer, and he really had to use his jaws and teeth to get through them, so by default it’s no wonder they scraped anything undesirable right off his teeth!

Pedigree Dentastix  Hilife Dental Chews

Chew Toys

A good chew toy can also be a great addition for those in-between times. I wouldn’t recommend that’s all you use as a dental control, but there are some that can really help. For example, the rope toy mentioned in this review. (It’s the second toy down from the top)

Dental Sprays

There are specialist dental sprays for your dog, such as this one:


This herb can help while you get on top of reducing the bacteria. It won’t fix the root cause, but can help freshen the breath while you take further action. Just chop it up and mix it into your dog’s food.

Not eating bacteria!

Preventing ingestion of bacteria from outside sources – think of the poop I mentioned above. That’s one habit you definitely need to get on top of if it’s happening! Also, cleaning feeding and watering bowls daily is imperative. You can appreciate foodstuffs and backwash in a water bowl will also be conducive to generating new sources of bacteria.

I hope you have found this article useful. If you have anything you would like to add, or simply feel like leaving a comment, please do so below. It would be great to hear from you!

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