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Dealing with Dog Breath

5 Ways to Combat Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats

-- By Kristi Snyder, DVM
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Brush your pet's teeth just as you would your own, moving in a circular motion, hitting every surface of the tooth. Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth 3-4 times per week. If at any time you notice your pet's gums appear red and inflamed, or if your pet seems unusually resistant to allowing you to brush or examine his or her mouth, it could be a sign of a medical issue; check with your veterinarian.

3.     Switching to Dry Pet Food
The type of diet you feed your pet also can play a role in the quality of his or her breath. For the most part, unless your dog or cat has a specific medical condition (or unless your veterinarian recommends otherwise), it's best to feed dry kibble over wet food. The simple act of chewing dry food can help keep your pet's teeth clean by breaking down soft tartar that builds on the surface of your pet's teeth. That, in turn, leads to fresher-smelling breath. Veterinary prescription dental diets, which are specially formulated to break down slowly as pets chew, can provide even more mechanical chewing action and can be a good option for pets who accumulate more tartar.

In some cases, bad breath is not a result of plaque buildup, but rather, it can signify a digestive problem. If you think that your dog's food could be causing an issue, especially if excess belching or gas is noted, check with your veterinarian. (Read more about pet food allergies.)
 
4.     Breath-Freshening Toys & Treats
There are many toys, chews and treats that claim to help improve the breath of our pets. These products play into your pet's natural chewing tendencies, and many have a unique shape or texture designed to facilitate tartar breakdown. They often contain ingredients such as mint, parsley or dill designed to freshen your dog or cat's breath. While toys, chews and treats can be a good addition to your pet's regular oral care routine, they shouldn't take the place of regular brushing and dental cleanings. Rather, think of them as a supplement to your other dental care practices for your pet. For best breath-freshening effects, look for products that contain enzymes (on the ingredient list these will generally end in "ase") that serve to combat odor-producing bacteria.
 
A few words of caution: Dental chews and similar items are intended for chewing and are not appropriate for pets who might be inclined to tear off and/or swallow large chunks. Not every product is suitable for every pet, and many are not designed to be swallowed. Also, keep in mind that some chews and treats, while technically safe for consumption, can cause digestive upset in particularly sensitive dogs or cats. Any item small enough to swallow can present a possible choking hazard or put your pet at risk for an obstructive gastrointestinal foreign body. For this reason, it's best to know your pet when it comes to making decisions on which toys and chews are appropriate. Always use caution and check with your veterinarian before offering your pet any new product.
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About The Author

Kristi Snyder, DVM Kristi Snyder, DVM
Kristi is a veterinarian and author of LifeSprinkles.com, a healthy living blog where she shares her passion for wellness and inspires others to live healthy, balanced lives. She lives in Phoenix with her three dogs (Eddy, Alan and Jelly Bean) and her cat Smush. She loves animals, cooking, running--and all things chocolate.

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