What Can I do For Dog Bad Breath? Do Home Remedies Work?

Brookfield Animal Hospital veterinarians offer their opinion of homemade remedies for dog bad breath and the additional things you can do to improve the health of your pet’s mouth.



Bad breath starts innocently enough.  Salivary glands deposit a protein rich, thin film, called the pellicle, over the teeth and gums as a way to protect them from digestive acids and enzymes. Bacteria that naturally live in your dog’s mouth attach themselves to this pellicle and create a sticky biofilm called plaque.  Initially, this plaque layer is very thin and colorless, but in the absence of brushing, this biofilm grows thicker and is colonized by harmful bacteria.



As the bacterial colony grows, it produces acids that erode the tooth surface and infect surrounding gum tissues.  It’s this infection that causes your dog’s breath to smell.



It doesn’t end there. As plaque ages, it hardens into a substance called calculus. Calculus has an uneven rough surface that bacteria easily adhere to accelerating the dental disease process.  The gum line, that protects the root of the tooth and the jawbone, becomes compromised, and bacteria invade the space below the gums. Once bacteria get below the gum line, your pet’s teeth, the roots of the teeth, the gums, and jawbone are all at risk of serious oral disease.  At this stage, no amount of brushing or oral supplements will be effective at stopping the disease, or curing the bad breath.


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What Can I Do For My Dog’s Bad Breath At Home?



Numerous articles cite home remedies for pet bad breath. Here’s a list of some of the homemade remedies that our clients ask us about and our thoughts on each.



Can I Use Coconut Oil To Treat My Dog’s Bad Breath?



Many holistic veterinarians claim that coconut oil improves digestion, slows the progression of cognitive dysfunction in aging dogs, and masks the smell of bad breath, but there are no clinical studies that support these claims.  If you want to give your dog coconut oil to mask the smell of bad breath, start with a small portion, ¼ teaspoon for small dogs and a full teaspoon for larger breeds.  Be wary that coconut oil is very high in fat and can cause diarrhea.  Do not give coconut oil to overweight dogs, to dogs with a history of digestive problems, or ones that are prone to pancreatitis.



Do Carrots Help Doggie Bad Breath?



Carrots are a safe treat and because they taste sweet, many dogs take to them readily.  The process of chewing raw carrots will scrub some dental plaque from teeth, but won’t improve existing dental disease or remove calculus from teeth. For dogs with severe dental disease, carrots may be too painful to chew.



Does Apple Cider Vinegar In My Dog’s Water Help With Bad Breath?



Undoubtedly we still have much to learn about the benefits of natural foods like apple cider vinegar, a product made from allowing the alcohol in hard cider to age and oxidize into acetic acid.  Some studies link apple cider vinegar to lower blood sugar levels, weight loss, and lower cholesterol in humans, but no clinical studies have been conducted in dogs.  Because vinegar is an acid, it has antimicrobial properties and could briefly reduce the number of bacteria in your dog’s mouth.  Some pet owners report success with putting ½ teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in their pet’s water, but if you try this, make sure your pet isn’t turned off by the taste and that he or she is not drinking less.



Can I Give My Dog Parsley For Halitosis?



Parsley has long been considered to be a breath freshener for humans, but research has shown that it only serves to briefly mask the smell of bad breath with its own strong, but pleasant smell.  Parsley is high in chlorophyll, a chemical also thought to be natural deodorizer and antimicrobial, but this too is only lore.  Still, parsley contains beneficial vitamins and fiber, so if your dog will eat it, it’s okay to sprinkle some on his or her food.  Just monitor for diarrhea or vomiting and don’t expect much change in they way your pet’s breath smells.



Can I Give My Pet Yogurt To Stop Bad Breath?



There is anecdotal evidence that the ‘good’ or probiotic bacteria in yogurt may out-compete the bad bacteria in your pet’s mouth that cause bad breath.  We have not seen evidence of this ourselves, but we like the addition of yogurt to a pet’s diet because it is a good source of calcium and protein.  Many dogs and cats are lactose intolerant, however; so feed only a small portion.  Pet’s should receive no more than 10% of their daily allowance of calories from treats like yogurt so for cats, give no more than a teaspoon of yogurt per day. Give dogs one-to-three tablespoons of yogurt per day depending on size.  Plain, Greek style yogurt is best.  Make sure that you don’t feed yogurt sweetened with xylitol.



Can I Brush My Dog’s Teeth With My Human Toothpaste?



No, for several reasons:


  • Human toothpaste contains fluoride, a chemical toxic to pets
  • Human toothpaste may contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is poisonous to dogs
  • Human toothpaste contains a foaming agent to help carry away dirt from teeth. We spit this out, but dogs will swallow it and may be nauseated by it.


Can I Make My Own Pet Toothpaste?



Yes, you can, but once you read the ingredient list, you’ll probably decide not to.  We’ve read through several recipes for homemade pet toothpaste and frankly, we think that it’s just not worth the effort or expense.  The C.E.T toothpaste that’s available at our practice or through our online store is a much better option and is far less expensive.


Can I Give My Dog My Mouthwash?



No.  We spit out mouthwash after rinsing, but dogs will swallow it and the alcohol content of the product will make them nauseated.



Can I Buy An Additive To Put In My Pet’s Water?



Yes and there are VOHC-approved ones on the market, but for the most part we’re not into them.  Water additives work enzymatically to reduce the likelihood that plaque will form, but we don’t like the idea of messing with a pet’s water source.  The same enzymatic chemicals can be found in a number of VOHC chews that both dogs and cats find palatable. If you want a treat that provides enzymatic protection against plaque build up, we recommend the C.E.T Hextra chews.


My Pet Won’t Let Me Brush His Teeth, What Should I Do?


If your pet won’t let you brush his teeth, bring him to our office and allow us to show you how you can train your dog to enjoy the process.  We’ve been successful with even the most obstinate pets and we’re happy to share our secrets, but if you’re convinced that your pet won’t allow brushing, try sticking the toothpaste on your finger and slowly working it into your pet’s mouth. Praise, love, and reward your good boy for each step forward!  Be patient, he’ll come around!  You can also smear some pet toothpaste on a Kong toy and let him or her chew it off. Be sure to explore more on this topic in the Additional Reading section further down.


Do Dog Toothbrush Chew Toys Work?


Sometimes!  If you have a pet that likes to chew and is food driven, a dog toothbrush chew toy might work for you. The toys are constructed so that dogs can hold them with their front paws and gnaw on rubber bristles designed to help clean teeth.  We’re not huge fans because if you put toothpaste on them, the dogs end up getting it everywhere.


What About Dental Treats Like Greenies?


Though it is a Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved product, we’re not crazy about this oral chew.  On rare occasions, animals eat Greenies and end up with obstructed digestive systems.  It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve seen enough cases that we feel we should sound the alert.


Instead, try another Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) approved chew.  The C.E.T. brand is especially good.  Some of the C.E.T chews contain safe enzymes that slow plaque buildup and all help to clean teeth through the action of chewing.  They are safe and dogs and cats usually love them.


Do Pet Food Stores Sell Products For Dog Bad Breath?


Yes, but we recommend only purchasing Veterinary Oral Health Council (VHOC) approved products.  You can shop for these on our online store. C.E.T chews typically contain safe enzymes that slow the build up of calculus and are made so that the chewing action helps to scrape plaque from teeth. We’ve seen even the finickiest animals chomp on them.


How Do I Know If An Over-the-counter Oral Health Product Is Safe?


Here is the most up-to-date list of all of the products that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.  


What Oral Health Products Does Brookfield Sell?


safe oral healthcare products for pets

From upper left moving clockwise, C.E.T toothpaste, OraVet sealant, and OraVet chews. All are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Counci (VOHC).


At Brookfield, we try to keep things simple.  We only sell the following oral health products, but you can find more on our online pharmacy.  New online pharmacy customers are usually eligible for a first-time discount. Your pet does not have to be a patient of ours to shop our pharmacy.


Oravet Sealant


This should only be applied after your pet’s teeth have been cleaned.  This gel electrostatically bonds with the enamel on your pet’s teeth, forming a barrier that prevents the adhesion of plaque.  This product should only be purchased under the direction of a veterinarian.


Oravet Chews


These chews are recommended for pets that have just had a dental cleaning or who are in-between cleanings.  The chew scrapes teeth clean and contains the same electrostatic bonding ingredient as that sealant described above. After the tooth has been scraped clean by chewing, the sealant adheres to the smooth enamel and reduces the chances of continued plaque build up.  This product is over-the-counter.


C.E.T. Pet Toothpaste


We have four flavors available at our office for both dogs and cats.  These products can be purchased over-the-counter.


Can I Give My Dog A Breath Freshener or Gum?


No, both typically contain xylitol, an ingredient that is toxic to dogs.  Also, dogs won’t chew gum or suck on a breath freshener; they’ll just swallow them.

Additional Reading

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