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How to Get Rid of Bad Dog Breath

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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.
  • 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.
  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

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    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

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    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.

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    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

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    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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