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How to Get Rid of Bad Dog Breath

close up of dog mouth

Smelling bad dog breath is just part of being a dog owner, right? Wrong! Though dogs may develop stinky breath from tartar/plaque buildup or eating garbage (or, sometimes, underlying health conditions), your dog’s breath doesn't have to send you running away from your pet. There are steps you — or your vet — can take to freshen up your dog’s breath.

At-home Tips for Bad Dog Breath

You have an oral hygiene routine to keep your teeth and mouth clean. So why not take a few steps to help keep your dog’s teeth and mouth fresh, too?

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  • Brush your dog's teeth. It might sound intimidating, but brushing your dog’s teeth will keep their breath fresher. It also reduces plaque and tartar buildup, which can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Most pet stores stock special finger brushes that slip over your finger to brush your dog's teeth. Canine toothpastes in appetizing flavors help make the experience a little more enjoyable for your dog. Never brush your dog's teeth with toothpaste developed for people.
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  • Give your pup something to chew on. Chewing is your dog's natural way of cleaning their teeth, and it improves their breath in the process. Specially made dog teeth-cleaning treats like DENTASTIX™ dental chews help reduce plaque and tartar buildup and come in a variety of flavors sure to please your pup. You can also consult your veterinarian about appropriate chew toys.
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Vet Treatments for Bad Dog Breath

  • Keep an eye on what your dog eats and drinks. Sometimes a dog’s breath stinks simply because they’ve eaten something stinky. Make sure your dog isn't indulging in unsavory snacks, such as roadkill, garbage or even feces from a cat, dog or bird. Keep an eye on your dog during walks or time outside and consider moving the litter box and getting a lid for the trash can. And always give your dog fresh, clean water daily.
  • If the bad breath persists, visit your vet.
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  • Consider annual cleanings by your vet. Bad breath is more common in older dogs because tartar builds up over the years — unless your dog's teeth are cleaned regularly. Your vet will clean and polish your dog's teeth and check for any issues, such as cavities or tooth damage. Your veterinarian may recommend cleaning under anesthetic to remove heavy tartar; this can be more expensive (and sometimes riskier for older animals), but it may be worth it to avoid a serious and possibly life-threatening illness later.
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  • Rule out other causes of bad breath. If your dog’s bad breath is a recent change or you have concerns about your pet’s breath in general, your vet can assess the condition of your dog's teeth to confirm the cause of the smell. It's important to rule out other health problems, such as periodontal disease or a kidney or liver disorder. Your veterinarian can also offer advice on ways to maintain your dog's oral and overall health.
  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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