How to Clean a Dog’s Mouth and Teeth? Fix Dog’s Bad Breath

how to clean a dog's mouth and teeth

Most dog owners complain about their dog’s bad breath. Even though they love cuddling and kissing, they cannot stand the smell. This horrible smell is known medically as halitosis. Your dog’s bad breath can be caused by an oral disease or an underlying health issue. A lack of oral hygiene causes almost all oral diseases. Imagine what a human’s mouth would be like if they had never brushed their teeth.

Oral diseases are common in small animals like dogs and cats. Unfortunately, it is hard for pet owners to detect abnormalities, often late. Thus, the prevention and treatment of oral diseases are important for the health of our pets. 

Now, how to clean a dog’s mouth and teeth? Some owners will find it hard to clean their dog’s teeth or do not have a lot of time to do it. There are many new ways to help you keep your dog’s teeth and mouth healthy without much effort and in no time.

In this article, you will learn: 

  • Why does your dog have bad breath
  • How to clean your dog’s teeth
  • What will happen if you do not clean your dog’s teeth

Why Does Your Dog Have Bad Breath

If you are having an issue with your dog’s horrible breath, you are not the only one. It is a common complaint from pet parents, but they do not know how serious this can be. A dog’s breath can be worse after eating or chewing a dirty toy. Sometimes, a dog’s breath smell like fish. Still, when the smell becomes too stinky and unbearable, you should know that there can be serious health reasons behind it. 

Taking your dog to a vet for a checkup is recommended to diagnose the reason behind the bad smell. It can be one of the following:

1. Periodontal Disease 

Periodontal disease is the most common cause of halitosis. This disease occurs when there’s an accumulation of dental plaque and tartar on the teeth. It affects canine teeth, gums, and even bones triggering severe inflammation and tooth loss.

Studies show that eighteen breeds showed increased susceptibility to periodontal disease compared with crossbred dogs. Breeds with the highest odds included Toy Poodle, King Charles Spaniel, Greyhound, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Brachycephalic breeds had 1.25 times the odds of periodontal disease compared with mesocephalic breeds.

Signs that your dog has a periodontal disease:

  • Discolored teeth.
  • Bad breath.
  • Inflamed and bleeding gums.
  • Falling teeth
  • Drooling.
  • Uncomfortable when eating

2. Kidney Disease

When kidneys fail to cleanse the blood from toxins, it will cause these toxins and waste material to build up. It will lead to uremia and excessive urea in the blood. 

The urea will break down into ammonia, causing your dog’s breath to smell like chemicals or urine. Uremia can also cause ulceration in the mouth that can be very uncomfortable for your pet. 

Signs that your dog might have kidney failure:

  • Weight loss.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Pale gums.
  • Loss of balance
  • Chemical smell to the breath.
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Swelling
  • Peeing too much or too little

Kidney failure is a serious life-threatening condition. If you start seeing the signs listed, contact your vet immediately.

3. Liver Disease

Your dog’s bad breath can signal that the liver is having trouble filtering out toxic substances, usually due to severe liver disease. As a result, sulfur substances end up in the bloodstream and can make their way to your dog’s lungs, so when they exhale, the substances will cause a distinct smell. The bad smell is usually accompanied by other symptoms caused by liver disease. 

Signs that your dog might have a liver disease:

  • Lethargy and fatigue.
  • Low appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Drinking less or more than usual.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Shaking.
  • Skin and eye jaundice

Liver failure is a serious life-threatening condition. If you start seeing the signs listed, contact your vet immediately.

4. Foreign Body

Dogs love chewing everything they can find around, whether it’s a rope stick or their toys. But unfortunately, this makes them at greater risk of getting foreign material stuck in their mouth. They tend to get stuck in their teeth or on the roof of their mouth and cause bleeding and infections leading to bad breath.

Sometimes foreign bodies get stuck in your dog’s nose, too. A common example is the foxtail plant (a grass-like weed). With time, the foreign body will become coated with calcified material. It may impede the proper flow of air through the nostrils causing infections that may lead to an unpleasant odor.

A foreign body won’t only lead to bad breath. It can cause a lot of discomfort to your dog.

Signs that your dog might have a foreign body stuck in their mouth:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bleeding mouth
  • Discomfort while eating
  • Vomiting 

Do not ignore the symptoms; contact your vet!

5. Diabetes 

Diabetes in dogs is another common reason for bad breath, especially when untreated. The body will start breaking down fat, creating a build-up of acids in the blood. This acid build-up will lead to diabetic ketosis (DKA), a serious, life-threatening condition that can happen to dogs. DKA will cause acetone or sweet fruity smell in your dog’s breath.

Diabetes often has other serious symptoms than bad breath.

Signs that your dog might have diabetes:

  • Polydipsia (increased water intake)
  • Polyuria (increased urination)
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Chronic or recurring infections
sick and sad dog lying beside his owner
Image credit: Schwoaze, Pixabay

6. Oral Tumor 

The chances of your dog getting oral tumors increases with age. You may find a lump in your dog’s mouth and ignore it, but this lump might be cancer. A tumor is an abnormal growth. It can appear in many types and shapes, especially in the mouth. The growth can be benign ( non-cancerous) or malignant ( cancerous), they are hard to tell apart, and your veterinarian will need to run tests.

The cancerous tumors are Oral Malignant Melanoma (OMM), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), Fibrosarcoma (FSA), Osteosarcoma (OSA), and Acanthomatous Ameloblastoma (CAA).

The benign tumors are Peripheral Odontogenic Fibroma (POF) and Odontoma.

Whether benign or malignant, these tumors can cause bad breath in your dog as a result of the chemicals they produce.

7. Gastrointestinal Issues

Many things can cause gastrointestinal issues. Still, the most common reason is that your dog probably ate something they shouldn’t have eaten. 

It can be one of the following:

(a) A Toxin

When walking your dog, ensure you are always aware of what he is putting in his mouth, especially regarding plants. Certain toxic plants can cause rancid or a rotting smell in a dog’s breath because of the inflammation they cause in his stomach and intestine.

Another common and disgusting thing your dog might eat on the streets while you are walking them is cigarettes. They will have a nicotine odor on their breath.

(b) Non-Food Item

Many pet owners complain about their dogs eating their feces or other dogs’ feces. Even sometimes, they like to explore the cat’s litter box. After ingesting it, their breath will certainly smell like fecal matter. But sometimes, eating poop can signify that your dog has a nutritional deficiency, not just curiosity or behavioral issues, so it is better to consult your vet. 

(c) Raw Meat Diet

A raw meat diet can be very dangerous. It can make your dog susceptible to harmful diseases and bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella. These bacterias will cause infections and inflammations in the gut leading to bad breath. 

Feeding your dog raw diets may disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in the mouth, contributing to a rotting smell. Suppose you are providing your dog with a raw diet. In that case, it is better to consult your veterinarian, who can explain the risks and run some tests on your dog to ensure they are not infected with a harmful disease or bacteria. 

8. Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can be primary ( this means that your dog catches the bacteria directly from a source) or secondary ( the bacterial infection happens secondary to a preexisting issue such as a foreign body )

Sulfur-producing bacteria that normally live on the tongue’s surface can cause a bad smell. When these bacteria increase the breakdown of proteins, odorous volatile sulfur compounds are released from the mouth.

9. Respiratory Tract Diseases

Last but not least, respiratory problems can lead to bad breath as well. It is usually the case when there’s an inflammation. Rhinitis, also known as  Inflammation of the nose or nasal passages, and sinusitis, also known as inflammation of the sinuses, are two common examples.

Other examples may include pharyngitis (inflammation of the throat or pharynx) and tonsillitis, also known as inflammation of the tonsils.

Signs that your dog might have a respiratory tract disease causing the bad breath:

  • Sneezing 
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Difficulty breathing
  • And sometimes watery eyes.

How To Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

In recent years, taking care of a dog’s oral hygiene has become much easier and more detailed. You now have many new options to keep your dog’s dental health in good shape at the veterinary clinic or at home. Your job at home is to prevent the accumulation of tartar and bacteria that can lead to severe oral illnesses. If your dog already has bad teeth, your veterinarian will step in and perform a professional teeth cleansing and extraction if needed.

1. Prevention 

It is your job to prevent oral diseases in your dog by following one or more of these steps:

  • Teeth brushing: You can brush your dog’s teeth using a special toothpaste and toothbrush. Do not use human toothpaste. It is toxic. If you feel it’s impossible to brush, you can use another method we will mention.
  • Dental toys are an easy way to help your dog clean its mouth, but it is not enough on their own. Try to use it in addition to another method.
  • Dental treats: it is another easy, fun way to promote good oral hygiene, but just like dental toys, it is better to use another method. Be careful. Not all dental treats work. Only the bag of treats with the sign ” VOHC approved” can clean your dog’s teeth. ( VOHC stands for veterinary oral health council).
  • Water additives contain enzymatic ingredients that break down tartar and eliminate bad breath. You can add it to your dog’s water daily. Usually, dogs tolerate it and are not bothered by the smell or taste.
  • Dental wipes: they can be helpful to remove what’s on the surface of the teeth but is not very helpful when it comes to smaller spaces. Teeth brushing is much more recommended.
  • Dental sprays: it is helpful to reduce plaque formation, but it is not as effective as teeth brushing. It is better to combine it with another method.
  • Dental dry food: brands like Royal Canin are now producing new oral dry food. They claim that it helps to clean the teeth while your dog is chewing the kibble because of its special texture that acts like a toothbrush. Royal Canin describes its product: “They surround each tooth as your dog bites down, so every mouthful rubs the surface with a brushing effect.” It is a good idea for dogs prone to oral health issues, such as cavalier king Charles. This product is also better to be used in combination with another method.

BE CAREFUL: raw bones, antlers, tennis balls, and cow hooves are not recommended. They can be harmful and can damage your dog’s teeth.

2. Treatment

When your dog has a lot of tartar build-up, teeth brushing and dental toys cannot fix the problem. The only thing you can do is to contact your vet and schedule yearly professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia. But after the cleansing, you will still need to brush your dog’s teeth and use preventative measures.

dog lying on a vet's table
Image credit: 12019, Pixabay

What Will Happen If You Do Not Clean Your Dog’s Teeth

Other than periodontal diseases, many different complications can happen due to bad oral health.

This is why you should not neglect your dog’s oral health:

1. Impairment of The Immune System

Prolonged dental infection can cause sepsis. The bacteria won’t only lead to an abscess in the teeth. It will spread, the immune system will overreact, and it will start damaging the body’s tissues and organs. It is extremely dangerous and deadly but is not contagious.

2. Increased Risk of Heart and Liver Disease

The same bacteria found in the mouth and caused by periodontal diseases will also affect the valves of the heart leading to pericarditis. They will affect the liver as well, leading to hepatitis. Studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal diseases are more prone to heart diseases than dogs with good oral health.

3. Your Dog Will Stop Eating

A broken tooth or gum inflammation is very painful to your dog. Therefore your dog will stop eating and showing, which can lead to dehydration, anorexia, anemia, and malnutrition.

4. Complication of Diabetes 

The periodontal disease worsens diabetes in your dog. Inflammation and infection will decrease the body’s sensitivity to insulin which regulates blood sugar. 

In Conclusion

Your dog’s oral health is much more important than you think. Do not ignore your dog’s bad breath or neglect cleaning and checking their teeth. It is recommended to take your dog to a vet check every once in a while, especially if it is over 7 years old. Many things can be happening in your dog’s mouth without you noticing, which can lead to deadly diseases. 

Keep the following steps in mind:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth or add a water additive to their water
  • In addition to the first step, use approved dental treats and dental toys
  • And if your dog is prone to periodontal diseases because of their breed, switch to dental kibble 
  • Stay away from harmful dental toys.

If you would like to read more about your dog’s oral health, check the following websites:

The Medical Resources:

  • Bellows J, Berg ML, Dennis S, Harvey R, Lobprise HB, Snyder CJ, Stone AES, Van de Wetering AG. 2019 AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2019 Mar/Apr;55(2):49-69. DOI: 10.5326/JAAHA-MS-6933. PMID: 30776257
Oval@3x 2

Don’t miss these tips!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.