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So, dealing with dog breath is an inevitable side effect of being a pet parent, right? Nope.
While bad dog breath is common, the most common cause of canine halitosis is dental disease—no fun for Fido, and actually very dangerous for their health. Dental disease can cause systemic illness.
When learning how to freshen a dog’s breath, pet owners also learn how to keep their pet’s mouths healthy.
When brushing dogs’ teeth, it’s one of the most responsible things a pet parent can do. Consider that:
Keeping a dog’s mouth healthy can add up to two years to their lifespan
By the age of two years, 80% of dogs have some form of gum disease
The most common risk factor for dental disease in dogs is a lack of at-home brushing. How to freshen a dog’s breath and regular home dental care coincide. Brushing a dog’s teeth should happen often—every day, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
If the idea of scrubbing a dog’s pearly whites seems weird, that’s okay—it’s weird for the dog, too. Slow and steady wins the race. Start by getting a toothbrush and some dog toothpaste. Use a human toothbrush, but not human toothpaste, which has chemicals that can be toxic to dogs.
Some dogs can be very squirmy at first, so it may be helpful to take them for a long walk before each tooth brushing session or have a vigorous round of playtime so they're more exhausted (i.e. passive and pliant). Start gradually getting the dog used to the idea of having those strange new objects in their mouth. Here’s how to brush a dog’s teeth:
Bring the toothbrush and toothpaste out and let the dog sniff them
Stroke the dog’s face with the toothbrush—again, weird, but the dog needs to get used to the sensation.
Put some toothpaste on a finger and tap on the dog’s teeth. If they lick the toothpaste, great—it means they like it!
Start actually brushing their teeth.
Don’t worry if each step takes up to a week before the dog is used to it. Do just step one for a while, then step one and step two until the dog seems okay with it, and so on.
It’s also okay to reward them with treats. Yes, this sounds like giving a kid candy at the dentist—but it’s not a permanent thing. Once a dog’s comfortable with the process, the treats can go away.
Tried it all but the dog still won’t tolerate brushing? Some dogs just have a hard time, especially if they get to middle age before someone starts brushing their teeth.
For dogs who won’t let their pet parents brush their teeth, Fuzzy vets recommend a regular professional cleaning once a year. In between cleanings, treat the dog’s teeth with at-home products like:
Fresh breath sprays
Nontoxic water bowl additives
Don’t worry about buying all of these. Find out what the dog tolerates and go with that.
Want some more guidance about dog teeth and breath care? Become a Fuzzy member today and access 24/7 Live Vet Chat. With Live Vet Chat, pet parents can learn in real-time how to freshen dogs’ breath and keep their mouths healthy.