Vet issues warning about viral TikTok hack for curing bad dog breath

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Dr. Anna Foreman, Everypaw Pet Insurance’s in-house vet, has spoken out about an “ineffective” viral TikTok hack for curing bad dog breath with ‘doggy breathmints’…

Is this a good way to ‘cure’ bad dog’s breath?

In short, no. This video is of the making of a home-made ‘fresh breath’ treat for dogs. I say ‘fresh breath’ treat, rather than dental chew as none of the ingredients or format of this treat will aid in cleaning a dog’s teeth, they will either be ineffective, or potentially mask bad breath when the source is what needs to be addressed.

Firstly, these treats are unlikely to be particularly palatable given the ingredients contained within them and so getting a dog to consume them may be tricky. Secondly, from an ingredient perspective, none of these ingredients will help to clean a dog’s teeth chemically.

Thirdly, from a mechanical perspective this treat’s format and ingredients are not firm or long lasting enough to clean a dog’s teeth physically. A dog will not chew this treat like a human will chewing gum (over an extended period), which will mean the mint scent will not spread around their mouth or be long lasting.

bad breath can be a sign of problems in the teeth
Image by MeHe on Pixabay

Are there any ingredients that could be dangerous or toxic to dogs?

The ingredients contained with this treat include:

  •   Mint – mint leaves themselves are considered non-toxic to dogs in small quantities. They are not particularly palatable and so dogs tend not to want to ingest them regardless. Mint essential oil is highly toxic to dogs however and so substitution of this ingredient with the essential oil is extremely dangerous. This may be a temptation of owners to do if they don’t have fresh mint to hand.
  •   Parsley – as with mint, parsley is non-toxic however is not palatable to dogs
  •   Spinach – as with parsley and mint, it is non-toxic. It is a slightly more palatable ingredient than herbs, however still not particularly palatable.
  •   Natural yoghurt – natural, unsweetened, plain yoghurt is safe for dogs to consume in small quantities. It is palatable to dogs. In larger quantities it may cause gastrointestinal signs, particularly diarrhoea, as it contains lactose and dogs are lactose intolerant. However, yoghurt containing artificial sweeteners such as xylitol are highly toxic to dogs and so should be avoided. Again ingredient substitution could be dangerous here.
  •   Apple cider vinegar – a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar is considered safe for a dog to consume, however due to being an acidic compound, quantities larger than this may lead to gastrointestinal upsets. Animals with kidney disease are less capable of processing acidic substances and so their consumption should generally be avoided.

What could be causing bad dog breath?

Bad dog breath is caused by the presence of bacteria due to poor dental hygiene. Dogs do not clean their teeth twice daily like humans do, and so food and other ingested substances stick around on the surfaces of their teeth, particularly at the gumline.

Combined with normal oral bacteria found in the mouths of dogs, this leads to the build-up of tartar/plaque on their teeth. This tartar/plaque starts to affect the gumline, leading to gingivitis (gum inflammation and infection).

The bad smell from a dog’s breath is a combination of the smell of the food they eat, bacteria and tartar/plaque formation, with dogs with tartar/plaque and gingivitis having more persistently worse smelling breath. Simply chewing a mint treat will only mask the bad breath (if anything) not address the underlying cause.

What should pet owners do if their dog has bad breath?

The best way to deal with a dog’s bad breath is to address the underlying cause – the build up of tartar/plaque. If a dog has tartar/plaque, it is difficult to effectively and thoroughly get rid of it unless they have a procedure called a ‘scale and polish’ under general anaesthetic at the vets. This is where an animal is anaesthetised and all surfaces of their teeth (including the backs and below the gumline) are cleaned and polished to remove all tartar/plaque, much like a human at the dental hygienists.

At the same time, a vet will probe all of the teeth and their gum lines to check for abnormalities which may indicate a tooth needs to be removed. This includes pocketing around the gumline, chipping of the enamel of the tooth (outer coating) leading to pulp (inner of the tooth) exposure, exposure of the gap between the roots of multirooted teeth etc.

Teeth are never removed unless it will benefit an animal, and there are some tooth-sparing procedures that can be performed (such as root canal surgery) by some more advanced practitioners. Teeth ‘scaling’ performed at a non-veterinary establishment (eg. groomers) should be avoided, as an animal is not under anaesthetic. Removal of tartar/plaque in this fashion is firstly uncomfortable for an animal, and teeth cannot be cleaned on all surfaces – at most on the outer ones.

Additionally, teeth cannot be removed during these procedures (as it is illegal for teeth to be extracted by a non-veterinary surgeon), and so scaling which may expose the roots or pulp of teeth which should be extracted is very uncomfortable for an animal and will lead to further tooth deterioration and infections.

Unfortunately tooth brushing and other methods of tooth cleaning tend to be ineffective against a heavy tartar/plaque burden, however may improve overall gum health and is worth trying. It is recommended for an animal’s teeth to be scaled and polished under anaesthetic, with regularly brushing or the use of other methods to prevent tartar build up then being used as a preventative.

Physical tooth brushing (either with a normal or finger toothbrush and dog specific toothpaste) is the most effective method, however there are dental chews (both edible and non-edible), and food and water additives which can be used to a lesser effect.

If a dog is seen to have bad breath, go and see their vet for advice. The vet will be able to look in their mouth and decide what course of action of the above is best for them. They will be able to check for pathology (infection, inflammation, masses, foreign bodies etc.) which may be the cause of the smell too!

It is important for owners to consider that even with severe dental disease, the majority of dogs will still be drinking, eating and not exhibiting obvious signs of pain. More subtle signs often present first of all, such as favouring one side of the mouth when eating or chewing, excessive lip licking or wincing when opening and closing the jaw.

A vet will be able to assess your dog’s mouth properly where an owner may not be able. Dental disease can have a massive impact on a dog’s quality of life, and more extremely lead to issues such as endocarditis (infection of the heart) and sepsis (infection of the body through blood spread), and so needs to be taken seriously.

This is a guest post by Dr. Anna Foreman. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk

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