wikiHow to Keep Your Dog's Breath Fresh

Three Methods:Brushing Your Dog's TeethProviding Other Forms of Home CareSeeing a Veterinarian and Preventing Serious Health Problems

While healthy dogs don't have the best breath, your pet's breath should not knock you off your feet or smell like a sewer. The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is tooth and gum disease.[1] If your dog has bad breath now, take it to your veterinarian for an evaluation. Bad breath is a common sign of dental disease. It can also signal other health problems. If your pet does not currently have bad breath, you can help prevent the problem.

Method 1
Brushing Your Dog's Teeth

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    Get the right equipment. The most effective method for keeping your dog's teeth healthy and breath fresh is brushing its teeth as often as possible.[2] Before you can brush your dog's teeth, you need appropriate supplies. Choose dog-friendly products from the pet store or your veterinarian.
    • Human toothpastes are not suitable for dogs because they are not safe to swallow in large amounts. You can find dog toothpaste at your local pet store. These come in a variety of flavors including chicken, liver, and peanut butter. Try a few different types until you find one your pet likes.[3]
    • Pet stores also sell toothbrushes for dogs, including some that fit on your finger. They also sell dental sponges that work equally well. A piece of clean gauze wrapped around your finger will also work as a toothbrush.[4]
    • If you have problems using toothpaste and a brush, you can also use single-use pet dental wipes. These come pre-moistened with a cleaning product suitable for your dog's teeth.
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    Help your dog get used to the process. Do not expect to be able to thoroughly brush your dog's teeth immediately. You'll need to teach the dog that brushing is a pleasant experience.
    • Start by dipping a finger in peanut butter, chicken broth or something else the dog likes. Let the pet lick it off your finger. While it is doing this, gently rub your finger against the dog's teeth and gums.
    • If the dog allows you to rub its gums, lift its lip as you would if you were brushing the teeth. Do this for a few days, alternating tasty treats with your dog's toothpaste.[5]
    • Once your dog is comfortable with you touching its teeth and gums, you can move on to using a brush or sponge.[6] Don't rush this. Make sure to go at your dog's pace and stop if it seems nervous or aggressive. Your safety and your pet's comfort are important.
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    Brush your dog's teeth regularly. Once your dog will allow you, brush its teeth often. Daily brushing is ideal, but even doing it a few times a week can help ward off dental disease. Here are some tips for effective brushing:[7]
    • Use a small amount of toothpaste on the brush or sponge.
    • Place the brush or sponge against the teeth at a 45-degree angle to the surface of the tooth. If using a brush, point the bristles, toward the gumline.
    • Work the toothbrush in a circular motion, covering two or three teeth at a time.
    • Brush all the teeth if possible, but concentrate your attention on the outer surfaces of the upper teeth.
    • Try to spend about 15 seconds on each side of the mouth.
    • When finished, reward your dog with a play session, a special toy, or a dental chew. This will help build a positive association with tooth brushing.

Method 2
Providing Other Forms of Home Care

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    Use a dental rinse or gel containing Chlorhexidine. The most effective anti-plaque antiseptic is chlorhexidine. Generally, to use a rinse, you squirt a small amount inside each of the dog's cheeks. To use a gel, you typically rub a small amount on the teeth.[8]
    • Chlorhexidine binds to teeth and other oral tissues and is released gradually. This allows it to act for a longer period of time than other suitable antiseptics.This helps keep your dog's mouth clean and breath fresh longer than other products.[9]
    • Chlorhexidine is generally safe for dogs. However, it tastes bitter unless it mixed with flavorings, so you should buy a product designed for dogs. These products are available from pet pharmacies, pet stores and veterinary practices.
    • Make sure to follow the directions on the packaging of the product you select.
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    Try a water additive. A variety of additives with anti-plaque activity are available from veterinarians and pet pharmacies.[10] They contain low levels of anti-plaque ingredients that contact the teeth as the dog drinks. This can help keep plaque levels down.
    • The effectiveness of many of these products is debatable. Some, however, are helpful and have earned Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approval. This means tests have found that they have anti-plaque properties.[11]
    • Many of these products are safe for both dogs and cats. Carefully read the label of any product before giving it to your pets. Never let a cat drink anything labeled for dogs unless the instructions state it is safe for cats.
    • It is important to talk to your veterinarian before using one of these products to make sure it is right for your pet.
    • These products are not substitutes for brushing or professional dental care.
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    Watch what your dog eats. Sometimes, dogs develop foul breath from eating garbage, feces or other stinky substances.[12] Do your best to prevent your pet from eating inappropriate foods and non-food items.
    • Make sure to clean out your dog's mouth by brushing its teeth and/ or using a rinse if it eats something unpleasant. Be sure to watch your pet for any signs of illness if your dog has eaten something it shouldn't have. If it appears sick, lethargic or behaves strangely, take your dog to a veterinarian right away.
    • Some commercial diets are designed to help prevent dental disease.[13] A few have earned VOHC approval. In some cases, the kibble size and hardness are designed to shear plaque from the teeth with chewing. Others contain anti-plaque ingredients.[14]
    • Dental diets are not a substitute for brushing or regular dental care. However, they can help keep plaque levels down. Talk to your veterinarian about the advisability of using one of these diets.
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    Provide appropriate chew toys and treats. Dental chews and treats encourage a dog to chew. This action mechanically removes plaque and debris from the teeth. Choose a toy your dog will chew often.
    • Consider smearing peanut butter or some other tasty substance on chew toys. This will encourage your dog to play with them.[15]
    • To maximize oral health benefits, choose chews, toys and treats suggested by your veterinarian or approved by the VOHC.These products meet specific standards for plaque and tartar prevention in small animals.[16]
    • Always keep an eye on your dog when it is playing with a chew toy. Take away broken toys and small pieces. Like children, dogs can choke on toys or swallow them. This can lead to gastrointestinal obstructions.
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    Prevent your dog from chewing unhealthy toys and treats. Some things that dogs like to chew on are not healthy or safe for dogs. In particular:
    • Avoid cow hooves, dried natural bones and hard nylon products. These products are too hard to mimic the action of tearing meat off a carcass. Using them increases the risk of your dog damaging its teeth or gums.
    • Limit use of rawhide chews, especially in small dogs. Do not allow dogs to consume large pieces. They are a choking hazard and may interfere with digestion. Never allow dogs to chew rawhide products unsupervised. Replace the chews as soon as they become worn.[17]
    • Never give your dog cooked or cut bones. Consider avoiding bones altogether. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the FDA advise against giving bones to dogs. There is a risk of oral injuries from splintered bones. They can also cause choking, gastrointestinal obstruction, and internal damage from swallowed pieces. Bacterial infection is also a possible risk.[18][19]

Method 3
Seeing a Veterinarian and Preventing Serious Health Problems

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    Schedule regular cleanings. Home care is not enough for long-term maintenance of oral health. To keep your dog's mouth healthy and its breath fresh, you also need to provide professional dental care. Regular veterinary visits should include dental evaluations.
    • Your dog's age, breed, and home care regimen will determine how often it needs dental cleanings.[20] Ask your vet for more details.
    • If your veterinarian notes periodontal disease or other dental issues, your dog needs a professional cleaning and examination.
    • Unlike people, dogs will not sit still with their mouths open for a long time. This makes it harder to clean teeth, take radiographs and perform other necessary procedures. Anesthesia is often needed for dental cleanings in dogs.[21]
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    Watch for signs of dental problems. Bad breath is often one of the first signs of dental issues, but there are other signs of dental disease. Dental problems can contribute to a wide variety of other health problems. Signs of potential dental disease in dogs include the following:[22]
    • Bad breath.
    • Broken, discolored or damaged teeth, or oral bleeding.
    • Increased or excessive drooling.
    • Difficulty opening or closing the mouth.
    • Loss of appetite or reluctance to chew food or toys.
    • Swelling, lumps, or sensitivity around the mouth.
    • Rubbing the mouth or face.
    • Behavior changes.
    • Recurrent eye infections, swelling, or discharge of pus.
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    Recognize the symptoms of systematic disease. Other illnesses, including diabetes, parasite infection, liver disease, and kidney disease can also produce unpleasant or unusual breath.[23]
    • If you notice your dog's breath is fruity, smells like urine, or is otherwise odd or foul, make sure to take it to your veterinarian as soon as possible.


  • If your pet already has an infection in its gums, seek your vet’s advice immediately to get it treated. In severe cases, your pet may need teeth extracted.

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