Dog Teeth Basics
Dog teeth are like human teeth; they need to have preventative care to ensure both their teeth, and their whole body, stay healthy. There is a natural buildup of plaque that develops on dogs' teeth (like ours!) and if not dealt with, will cause serious problems for your dog's health. Regular dental care for dogs will prevent things like infected gums, heart disease, losing teeth with age, and even oral cancer!
Brushes and Toothpaste
Dental care means brushing. Depending on the size of your dog, there are a few different options for toothbrushes. Long-handled toothbrushes that look like they're meant for a human are great for getting all those hard to reach places in a larger dog's mouth. A finger brush fits on your finger and is a much better size to fit in a small dog's mouth. It's best to experiment and find out what works best for you and your canine kids!
As for toothpaste, make sure to use a dog-specific one. That means not sharing your Colgate with Fido! Most dog toothpastes will be flavored with meat or other yummy foods for dogs so they're more willing to have you wiggle a brush on their teeth for a few minutes. Some dog toothpastes even contain enzymes to help reduce bacteria to improve your dog's health and make the newfound fresh breath last as long as possible.
(NOTE: most human toothpastes contain Xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener compound that is poisonous to dogs. It can cause liver damage and severe drops in blood sugar. If your dog gets into human toothpaste, take them to the vet right away!)
Mr. Bite-y Doesn't Like Toothbrushes...
If you've tried and tried, but your furry child will just NOT let you brush their teeth, don't fear, there are some other solutions. First: diet can make a difference and also be a useful tool in maintaining oral health for your doggo. Dry kibble is much better for Fido's oral health. This is because it minimizes the amount of food that get caught in between teeth and gums which can create and exacerbate existing dental issues.
You can also feed your dog treats and chews specifically for dental health. Dental treats are very well known and there are many different brands & styles that do the same things. Bully sticks and jerky work well (and taste yummy according to Zuko). Rubber chew toys and nylon bones also do the trick without the additional calories.
Second: get an annual or bi-annual dental cleaning. Vets normally offer dental cleanings in their office to get a thorough look at the health of your dog's mouth. These generally involve putting the doggos under general anesthesia to do an in-depth cleaning to remove seriously built up plaque.
Causes of Bad Breath
VCA Pet Hospitals writes this about bad breath in dogs, which is known as halitosis. "The primary cause of bad breath in dogs is bad bacteria causing decay that creates smelly sulfur compounds."
Here are some common causes of halitosis in dogs:
- Poor Dental Hygiene: Plaque and tartar build up in a dog’s mouth, causing bacteria build up and the strong odor that gets worse over time.
- Dietary or Microbiome Issues: Imbalances in bacteria in your dog's gut can cause a dog’s bad breath. Your dog may eat poop, which although is gross, is a habit of some dog breeds.
- Diabetes: Bad breath can be caused by sugar imbalances in your dog’s bloodstream.
- Kidney Problems:
- Liver Disease: Bad breath can be accompanied by vomiting, a loss of appetite and yellow coloring on your dog’s gums.