December 14, 2018





All I Want for Christmas is — A Toothbrush!

by LG Nixon

This Christmas season, before Fido starts giving kisses beneath the mistletoe, make sure his breath is fresh. Your family and guests will thank you. Most dog owners dismiss that unpleasant fragrance as just doggy breath, but there may be an underlying cause to that repulsive odor emitted from Fido’s happy face.

Oral hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is to each of us. Our pets can be subject to periodontal diseases and cavities just as we are. A build-up of tartar and plaque can lead to gum disease caused by bacteria trapped under the plaque. Dogs who chew regularly or have regular dental check-ups are least likely to experience dental issues. However, if your dog isn’t much of a chewer or you don’t regularly brush his teeth, the likely cause of the bad breath is the bacteria.

Tartar and plaque build-up causes irritation, and receding gum tissue will expose more of the tooth. This can lead to cavities, infection, even pus filled voids and tooth loss, not to mention very unpleasant doggy breath. There other numerous causes for doggy breath, too. If your dog’s breath smells sweet or fruity as though he has been chewing Juicy Fruit gum, it could be a sign of diabetes. Seek medical attention immediately.
Doggy breath that is reminiscent of urine could be a warning sign for kidney disease or another underlying medical concern. Please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Another possible cause could be liver malfunction. If your pet has pale or yellowish gums accompanied by sudden vomiting, seek medical attention immediately. This is a life threatening condition. A poopy smell may be just that — he has ingested poop somewhere, or he consumes a regular diet of poop, whether it is cat poop, other doggy poop or maybe even his own. Yuck. This is a condition called Coprophagia. Not only is it highly unsanitary for us and them, it causes revulsion and vomiting in humans just thinking about it. Bleh.

Doggy breath can also have other causes such as infected gums, internal bacterial infections, swollen gums from Gingivitis, neck or throat injuries. Your veterinarian can determine the cause and develop a treatment plan. If your pet has doggy breath, it is advisable to seek advise from your veterinarian before attempting to treat it on your own. Once the cause of the pet’s bad breath is discovered, you can begin proper treatment. Be sure to follow your veterinarian’s advise. If your pet is getting good dental hygiene, and enjoys chewing a selection of suitable toys like rope toys which can actually floss your dogs teeth, or if he receives dental treats which help freshen his breath and reduce tartar, you can help keep his breath fresh and his teeth and gums healthy by regularly brushing his teeth between dental visits. It is important to begin training early for your pet to accept brushing, but don’t worry if you’ve never attempted this with your pet, just be patient and ease into a routine. It is important to slowly introduce the concept to your pet.

DO NOT USE toothpaste meant for human consumption as they contain additives which are toxic and life threatening to pets, such as Xylitol and Fluoride, and other artificial ingredients like foaming agents that cause gastric upset. You can use plain old baking soda and warm water, but your pet may be more accepting of a doggy toothpaste. It will have flavoring attractive to Fido like beef, chicken or bacon, making it easier to get him to comply. He will probably want to eat your finger. Or the toothbrush.

A silicone finger brush may be a great way to introduce brushing to your pet. It’s small, flexible and soothing to sore gums. You can also use a soft child-sized toothbrush with the little silicone nubs. These work just as well as the stiff brushes sold in most pet food stores, and they may be a better choice in case Fido decides to chomp on the brush with the finger inside.

To get started, simply apply a small amount of paste to the brush and gently massage the outer gums to allow them to experience the sensation and the taste. Don’t make a production of this, just introduce it to your pet the first couple of times. As he gets used to this procedure, start brushing the entire mouth just as you would for a child.

Frequency of brushing is up to you, however, to be effective, brushing should happen at least twice a week at the minimum, more often or even daily is recommended by veterinarian dental professionals. You can supplement Fido’s and Meow-man’s dental routine with specialty products designed to help reduce plaque and tartar build-up. And yes, dental care is recommended for Meow-mann, too.

Did you know? The Veterinary Oral Healthy Council ( has an available listing of acceptable products which can help maintain good oral care for your pet. Look for products in your local pet supply store that carry the VOHC Accepted seal of approval. These products have been evaluated for efficacy, and use in pet care. The VOHC believes that regular use of these products will help reduce the severity of periodontal diseases in pets. Their website maintains approved listings of products for both dogs and cats.

However — It is important to know the VOHC itself does not test individual products but relies on the voluntary submission by manufacturers of tests results conducted according to VOHC guidelines. The VOHC does not certify a product for safety or efficacy, but only the submitted data assuring the product is as stated. Use your discretion when considering any of these products. Available dental care products include dental chews, diets, treats, and water additives.

ALWAYS CHECK THE INGREDIENT LISTING! Just as Xylitol is sneaking into foods for human consumption, it is sneaking into your pet’s food. According to, two citations were listed for manufacturers of water additives which contain XYLITOL. This was confirmed by Please check their website for further information.
*BreathaLyser Plus (Canada) Imported into USA by: Imrex, St. Joseph, MO.
*C.E.T. Aquadent – mfd. for and distributed in USA by: Virbac AH, Inc., Ft. Worth, TX (also distributed in Canada by Virbac.

As always, check with your veterinarian for advise in dispensing a new product to your pet. Alway supervise your pet when they are consuming a treat, supplement, or chewing a toy. Be proactive and do your research before dispensing a product to your pet.

For more information on pet dental care, please visit, or for specific topic information, go to For a listing of approved dental consumer products, check out for a detailed list, and to learn more about the organization. Or go to for specific product or drug information. While you do that, I’ll go brush some boxer teeth.

Now, go brush your pet’s teeth and then get ready for a big, minty kiss!
Happy Howlidays!