NutriSource Blogs

Give your dog a fresh start: Focus on dental health

September 15, 2022

When your dog’s breath is strong enough to melt paint, dental issues — including tooth decay, gum disease, and oral infections — can be a root cause. Because dental issues are prevalent in dogs — some 80% of dogs age 3 and older develop a periodontal disorder — being proactive in the matters of tooth and gum health is a smart thing for pet parents to do.

Before you start troubleshooting bad breath with dental solutions, be sure the source of the stank isn’t gastrointestinal. If the foul breath is accompanied by runny stools, your dog may be experiencing sensitivity to an ingredient in its pet food. This can develop over time, especially if you’re sticking to the same food every day.

To learn more about this and other causes of bad canine breath, read up on: Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish? How to Eliminate Bad Dog Breath.

What are the top dental issues in dogs?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, these are the common sources of periodontal issues in dogs:

  • Broken teeth
  • Periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums and bones that hold the teeth; the early stage is gingivitis)
  • Abscesses and infection in the teeth (caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar)
  • Mouth cysts and tumors
  • Defects in the palate

Halitosis (rotten breath) can be a symptom that your dog has one of these conditions and it’s progressing. Because these can create harbors for bacteria, it wouldn’t take much time at all for the foul odors to kick in. Early detection and treatment are critical when it comes to periodontal issues in your dog. Otherwise, they can cascade into more serious (and costlier to treat) health problems that show up in the kidneys, liver, and heart.

What are signs of periodontal disease in dogs?

Dogs can be stoic creatures when it comes to shouldering aches and pains. Many will press on with their normal routine — eating, sleeping, and playing — while showing only subtle signs that something’s wrong.

In addition to the bad breath, watch for the following symptoms of canine periodontal issues:

  • Increase in drool or slobber
  • Changes in how they chew or bite down on a toy (e.g., favoring one side of the mouth)
  • Protests or protects when someone gets too close to the mouth area (uncharacteristic yelping, growling, snapping)
  • Refusing to eat or reduced appetite
  • Drops food, treats, and toys from the mouth

Because dogs can often snarl if you get too close to their sore spot, use care when going in for a closer look.

If you see these signs of tooth problems, your dog should be seen by a vet or a board-certified veterinary dentist as soon as possible:

  • Broken, loose, or cracked teeth
  • Discoloration in the teeth or gums
  • Bleeding and swelling in the gums

Doggy dental care: Keeping the canine mouth fresh and clean

Keeping your dog’s teeth clean and preventing plaque buildup is hands down the best thing you can do to prevent canine dental problems. Good dental care, maintaining healthy teeth and gums, and early treatment can help your dog live a long, healthy life.

Annual professional cleanings

Dogs should have their teeth professionally cleaned once a year by a vet or a veterinary dentist. Even if you can manage to give your dog a daily tooth brushing, only a professional cleaning will remove any tartar and buildup that occurs in those hard-to-reach crevices and between the teeth. Some vets recommend cleanings every six months for small and toy breeds as well as brachycephalic breeds (Bulldogs, Boston terriers, Boxers, Pugs). Their shallower root systems present more opportunity for bacteria growth.

Plaque hardens into tartar on the surface of the tooth within 24 hours. Being proactive and using a variety of methods of plaque removal will boost their odds of maintaining excellent oral health.

Regular tooth brushings

As with humans, regular tooth brushing for dogs is a highly effective method of removing much of the plaque from teeth and gums. What you’ll need is a soft, nylon toothbrush and toothpaste that’s specially formulated for dogs (flavored to appeal to the canine palate). Note: Do NOT use toothpaste for people, because it may contain Xylitol, a sweetener that’s toxic to dogs.

Training your dog to open wide for a tooth brushing takes a “go slow” approach, because dogs can be protective of the mouth and nose area. With the help of our struggle-free guide to brushing your dog’s teeth, you’ll help them achieve cleaner chompers and fresher breath.

If you don’t succeed at convincing your dog to accept tooth brushing, you can also include the following in their daily routine to help ward off plaque and tartar and freshen their kisses.

Offer a chewie

Giving your dog something hard to chew on provides a mentally stimulating activity while also scraping away some of their plaque. It’s as simple as offering a bone, elk antler or nylon chew, or a firm rubber or rope toy for their gnawing pleasure, and they’ll do the rest. But it’s unlikely chewing will hit all tooth surfaces. Also, supervise your dog while they’re chewing, because if they manage to break off a chunk, that can lead to mouth or internal injuries, as well as a choking hazard.

Tip: If your dog loves raw carrots, offer carrot sticks as a snack! Breaking down a hard carrot can clean their tooth surfaces.

Dental chews

Are dental treats worth the money? These are often made with ingredients designed to remove plaque from the surface of the enamel. But the results can be mixed. You can’t be sure they’re hitting all tooth surfaces while they’re chewing. You’ll also want to watch and make sure your pet is getting some good chew action — instead of biting off chunks and swallowing them.

Dental water

Dog water additives are products marketed to reduce plaque and vanquish bad doggy breath for good. These contain enzymes that help break down plaque and tartar and freshen their breath. It’s as simple as adding these additives to your dog’s bowl. While they can’t take the place of tooth brushings and annual cleanings, water additives for dogs can slow the buildup of tartar.

Healthy gut, healthy mutt!

Another great way to fight off the funk in your dog’s breath? Keep their digestive tract in perfect balance with a diet that provides good bacteria.

Good 4 Life is an exclusive blend of supplements found only in NutriSource that offers your dog all the minerals and probiotic nutrients they need to build a healthy gut and a healthy body. They’ll remove unwanted pathogens and bacteria that cause digestive issues, rewarding you with a healthier pet and fresher kisses!

Find family-owned NutriSource at your local, independent pet supply retailer.