Bad Dog Breath: Why It's Not Normal and Can Be a Sign of Dental Trouble

(ARA) - Most people dutifully brush their teeth not only to prevent cavities and gingivitis, but also to keep their breath smelling fresh. In just the same way, regular brushing for dogs can ensure good dental hygiene and reduce the infamous "doggy breath."

Many pet parents believe that bad dog breath is a package deal and comes along with having a dog. While a common misconception, this is not true -- bad dog breath is a symptom of poor oral hygiene. Therefore, it's important that pet owners recognize this and take steps to improve their dog's oral health.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, up to 80 percent of dogs over three have some form of tooth and gum disease. If left untreated, tooth and gum disease can cause bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums, difficulty eating, and tooth loss. Longer term it can lead to even more serious health problems like liver, heart or kidney disease since bacteria can travel from the mouth to other parts of the animal's body.

"Some dogs are predisposed to having dental problems, but a majority of the dogs that I treat have bad teeth because their owners didn't take any preventative measures. As a result, these dogs are forced to undergo expensive cleanings that must be done under anesthesia," says Dr. Elizabette Cohen, practicing veterinarian and author. "Brushing your dog's teeth shouldn't be a big chore, and certainly nothing to fear. Your dog depends on you to make the proper health choices for him, and dental care is one of them."

Any pet owner can do much of their dog's dental care maintenance right at home. And for new pet parents that have never brushed their pet's teeth or pet owners looking to get rid of doggy breath, Dr. Elizabette Cohen offers these tips:

1. Brush your dog's teeth every day. Make it a point to do it after you've brushed your own teeth, either in the morning or the evening, so that when you think of brushing your teeth, you think of brushing your dog's as well. Retail stores with pet care sections and veterinarian's offices sell specially designed dog toothbrushes and dog toothpaste that make the job easier on you and more palatable for him. For those that simply cannot brush their dog's teeth, your veterinarian can prescribe dental wipes that can help simplify the process.

2. Get your dog in the habit of sitting for a teeth cleaning. It's a huge help if you can start your oral care routine early by getting your dog in the habit when he is a puppy. That way, it will become part of his normal routine. But whether your dog is a puppy or an adult, ease him into the feelings associated with dental care. Start by gently touching his mouth on a regular basis, and then by touching the inside of his mouth, followed by opening his mouth. Always be gentle and move slowly to help dogs get used to this new routine.

3. Contrary to popular belief, doggy breath is NOT normal. Give them dog toys and dog treats that will do double duty - clean their teeth and keep them entertained. For example, Hartz Chew 'n Clean Dental Duo will satisfy your dog's natural desire to chew and gently massage his gums, all while helping to clean his teeth. Also, treats like Hartz Crunch 'n Clean contain breath-freshening crystals with chlorophyll to freshen breath.

4. Make a dog biscuit or treat with dental benefits a part of your dog's regular diet. Most treats and biscuits only provide cleaning by mechanical abrasion. Hartz Crunch 'n Clean Dog Biscuits and Treats go one step further - they include Dentashield, an ingredient that reduces new tartar formation. A recommended daily serving of these biscuits and treats can make a difference in your dog's oral health in just 30 days.

5. Go back to training basics and treat your dog to a healthy reward to make teeth cleaning a habit. Teach your pup to associate a tooth brushing routine with a reward your dog is sure to like, and that supports your good oral care efforts.

Taking better care of your dog starts with paying attention to his teeth -- something that many pet owners ignore. By doing simple things like brushing your dog's teeth regularly or giving him treats and toys that encourage good dental health, you'll help to ensure that he's healthy and happy for many years to come. For more information about the importance of caring for your dog's teeth, visit the American Veterinary Dental Society website at, or to find out more about caring for dogs, visit Dental Essentials for Dogs.