Alert Issued About Doggy Bad Breath: Never, Ever Do This

by Dr. Becker

In the U.K., the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is warning pet parents not to use human toothpaste when they brush their dog’s teeth. The alert was issued “… after research suggested it was being seen as a solution to bad breath,” according to The Telegraph.

The RSPCA cautioned that the presence of fluoride in many human toothpaste brands, along with the growing use of the artificial sweetener xylitol, could be toxic to dogs if ingested. It’s important to realize that unlike humans, dogs don’t spit out toothpaste, so every bit of it gets swallowed or absorbed through the tissues in the mouth.

In addition to fluoride and xylitol, most human toothpaste contains a long list of chemicals and other substances your dog (and you) may be better off avoiding. My recommendation is to use an all-natural enzymatic dental gel designed specifically for pets.

Survey Says: Lots of Dogs Have Halitosis, and Lots of Dog Parents Are Clueless.
According to the Kennel Club, dental disease is the second most commonly diagnosed health issue for dogs in the U.K. In the U.S., it’s the number one medical problem — 80 percent of dogs have some degree of gum disease by the age of 3.

The RSPCA’s warning followed a survey of 2,000 pet parents that showed nearly 8 percent had tried to get rid of their dog’s bad breath with human toothpaste. Some people fed their dogs mints to freshen their breath, others offered sticks of gum and some thought a good grooming would solve the problem. There were even pet parents who vowed to keep their toilet lid down, fearing the time-honored canine tradition of drinking from the bowl was causing their dog’s stinky breath.

“While we applaud owners who take responsibility for caring for their dogs teeth, we would also stress that only toothpaste formulated for dogs should ever be used,” a Kennel Club spokeswoman told the Telegraph.

This is worth repeating. Regularly brushing your pet's teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep those teeth and gums in good condition. Daily brushing is ideal, but if that’s not workable, set a goal of four to five times a week.

Bad Breath Resulting From Gum Disease Isn’t ‘Normal’ for Dogs — It’s a Serious Problem
More than half the U.K. pet parents surveyed believed bad doggy breath was normal and not a symptom of poor dental health; only a fifth worried about bad breath being a sign of a serious health problem. When plaque isn’t removed from your dog’s teeth, it collects there and around the gum line and within a few days hardens into tartar. Tartar sticks to the teeth and ultimately irritates the gums. Irritated gums become inflamed — a condition known as gingivitis.

If your dog develops gingivitis, the gums will be red rather than pink and his breath will probably be noticeably foul-smelling. If the tartar isn’t removed, it will build up under the gums, eventually causing them to pull away from the teeth. This creates small pockets in the gum tissue that become repositories for additional bacteria.

At this stage, your dog has developed an irreversible condition, periodontal disease, which causes considerable pain and can result in abscesses, infections, loose teeth and bone loss.

When periodontal disease is present, the surface of the gums is weakened. The breakdown of gum tissue allows mouth bacteria to invade the bloodstream and travel throughout your dog’s body. If his immune system doesn’t kill off the bacteria, it can reach the heart and infect it.

Studies have shown that oral bacteria, once launched into the bloodstream, are able to fight off attacks by the immune system. What many pet parents don’t realize is there’s an established link between gum disease and endocarditis, which is an inflammatory condition of the valves or inner lining of the heart.

Researchers also suspect certain strains of oral bacteria may lead to heart problems. Some types of bacteria found in the mouths of pets produce sticky proteins that can adhere to artery walls, causing them to thicken. Mouth bacteria are also known to promote the formation of blood clots that can damage the heart.

How quickly these events take place depends on a number of factors, including your pet’s age, breed, genetics, diet, overall health, and the frequency and quality of dental care he receives. It’s also important to realize that some dogs will require regular professional cleanings even when their owners are doing everything right in terms of home care.

Signs of Possible Dental Disease in Your
If you notice any of the following signs in your dog, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian to prevent a dental problem from negatively impacting her health and quality of life:

Redness of the gumsTenderness around the mouth and/or teeth
Bad breathDrooling or dropping food
Loose teethBleeding from the mouth
Discolored teethLoss of appetite/poor appetite
Broken teethWeight loss

5 Steps to Help Keep Your Dog’s Mouth Healthy
  1. Feed a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate, fresh food diet, and feed it raw if possible. When your dog gnaws on raw meat, it acts as a natural toothbrush and dental floss.
  2. Offer recreational bones and/or a fully digestible, high-quality dental dog chew to help control plaque and tartar. The effect of dental chews is similar to raw bones, but safer for power chewers or dogs who have restorative dental work and can’t chew raw bones.
  3. Brush those teeth, preferably every day. If every day is too tall an order, commit to do it several times a week. A little time spent each day brushing your dog’s teeth can be tremendously beneficial in maintaining her oral health and overall well-being.
  4. Perform routine mouth inspections. Your dog should allow you to open his mouth, look inside and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on the tongue, under the tongue, along the gum line and on the roof of the mouth. After you do this a few times, you’ll become aware of any changes that occur from one inspection to the next. You should also make note of any differences in the smell of your dog’s breath that aren’t diet-related.
  5. Arrange for regular oral exams performed by your veterinarian. He or she will alert you to any existing or potential problems in your dog’s mouth, and recommend professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia, if necessary.