When your dog smells like rotting fish

It’s almost like a cartoon. Your nose hairs prickle as you catch a whiff of something off.

Has the rubbish been sitting for too long?

Have you forgotten to wash between your toes?

Nostrils still flaring in curiosity, you look down to see your dog panting, open mouthed. Hot breath wafting up towards you and it clicks – dog breath.

And while dog breath at the best of times isn’t the nicest smell in the world – except for puppy breath that smells eerily sweet – you may be surprised to know that dog breath isn’t meant to smell foul.

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What I mean to say is that you shouldn’t be mistaking your dog’s breath for the rotting of last week’s salmon in your rubbish. Breath isn’t that offensive by nature, so it is worth investigating if you can’t stand the whiff of your dog’s mouth.

Why your dog’s breath smells
There are a variety of health reasons that could be causing your dog’s stinky breath.

  • If your dog is an adult and has unusually fruity or sweet-smelling breath, it could be diabetes.
  • If your dog has extremely strong, foul breath, it could be liver disease.
  • If your dog’s breath smells like pee, it could be kidney failure.

But the No. 1 reason dogs have bad breath is periodontal disease – gum disease. Four out of five dogs over the age of three have some kind of dental disease. That is 80 per cent!

One reason gum disease and other dental diseases are so pervasive with dogs is because we owners very rarely care for our dog’s teeth properly. Sometimes we don’t know how or it seems like a chore. Imagining brushing your teeth every day and your dog’s!

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But it has to be done to prevent your dog from suffering unnecessarily from dental issues. Dental diseases can lead to extreme pain, tooth loss, loss of appetite, depression and even jaw fracture. It’s serious business. 

How to care for your dog’s oral hygiene
It would be great if we could teach dogs to maintain their own teeth and gums as we do with children, but alas, we haven’t yet invented a way yet. So, it’s up to you as a responsible dog owner to help your dog to prevent nasty periodontal diseases. Here are three tips:

Tip 1: Consider your dog’s diet
Dry food is known for being the best for your dog’s oral hygiene overall. The crunch helps to scrape tartar off their gums. High-quality dry food is also less likely to have additives and other nasties that can lurk in wet food that rot your dog’s teeth. That’s not to say that wet food is completely off the menu if you so choose. The general consensus with vets is it’s all good in moderation.

Likewise, fruits and vegies are surprisingly great for your dog’s health but only in small doses. We have a dog that loves bananas but the sugar is bad for his teeth. Keep the sugary treats as just that – treats.

Tip 2: Brush your dog’s teeth regularly
We hear so many dog owners groan at the thought of sticking their index finger in their dog’s mouth for a thorough scrub of those pearly whites.

And yes, it can be a tricky and tiresome job, but it must be done or else those pearly whites become not-so-pearly yellows.

There is toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs to make brushing more pleasant. It will also help to freshen breath and keep your dog’s mouth clean. Daily brushing is ideal if you can. Every other day at the least.

Tip 3: Gift your dog some chew toys
See, not every dental hygiene tip is labour intensive! Chew toys are great at shifting some of the hard plaque off your dog’s teeth. If that plaque is left there, it can inflame and infect gums causing big issues. Chew toys are good maintenance to keep teeth looking healthy overall while also being fun for your pup.

The key message is that dog breath should not be that bad. The myth of foul dog breath has led to many canines struggling with dental issues left untreated because of unknowing owners. We hope with this advice you can create a plan to keep your dog’s mouth sparkling and fresh.

If you have a dog, do you take care of its dental hygiene? Do you clean the dog’s teeth regularly?

Vedrana Nikolic is a dog lover and anthropologist. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in semiotics, studying the communication between animals and humans.

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