Well, folks, there is a reason why they call it “dog breath.” It stinks! Everybody loves a kiss from their puppy, but sometimes you catch a whiff of their breath and wonder what the heck they’ve been eating. 

Just like humans, dogs need to brush their teeth every once in a while. Unfortunately, pups don’t have opposable thumbs. That’s where you come in.

We at Bulbhead understand your pet’s needs, so read on for our guide to keeping your dog’s teeth clean.

Dog, Your Breath STINKS

Oral hygiene for your pup is just as important for them as it is for you. Dogs might not need a crown or filling as often as humans, but not brushing their teeth can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart, kidney, and liver disease.

Maybe you have heard that dogs’ mouths are cleaner than humans’ mouths, and so you think that they don’t need a good brush from time to time. But that isn’t necessarily the case. You and your dog have wildly different mouth biology despite having nearly the same number of bacteria.

The reason people consider dog mouths safer than humans is that it is difficult to swap diseases with our dogs through saliva. Dog’s can’t give us the flu from a lick on our cheek the same way you might get it from a significant other. This is because the bacteria in a pup’s mouth isn’t zoonotic, or transmitted between species. 

That is not to say you should be letting your dog French you every time you walk in the house (Gross, but dogs do sometimes sneak a mouth kiss in when you least expect it). Some bacteria can still be transferred, like salmonella and other types that may be living on the gross things your dog might eat (looking at you, litter box). 

So yes, your dog’s mouth is dirty, and it can definitely be stinky.


Ninety percent of dogs show signs of gum disease as early as age two. Those are not good odds for your furry friend.  Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in your dog’s mouth. It is a progressive disease that can damage their bone, gum, and any other part of their mouth.

It can be hard to notice the signs of gum disease since it tends to hide below the gum line. By the time you do notice signs, it might be too late for your furry friend. This is what makes preventative care so important at an early age.

Some breeds are more susceptible to gum disease. If your dog has a maligned bite, a small mouth, or poor hygiene, their risk is higher. Smaller dog breeds and dogs with shorter snouts (brachycephalic) are also more likely to develop periodontal disease.


Signs of the Times

The signs of gum disease in your dog can vary, so you should make a mouth x-ray a part of your dog’s annual check-up. There are four stages of periodontal disease in dogs that you should be aware of. The signs will vary depending on the stage.

The only way to diagnose gum disease in your dog is to have your vet put them under general anesthesia and perform a probe and x-ray. But you can notice signs and symptoms at each stage yourself.

Stage One

The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis. This inflammation of the gums is fairly subtle. Symptoms include red, puffy, or bloody gums, or bad breath.

If you notice these signs, contact your vet. Stage one periodontal disease can be fixed if appropriately cared for.


Stage Two

By the time stage two rolls around, 25% or less of your dog’s tooth attachment is lost. You or your vet might notice these signs upon teeth cleaning. Symptoms include red, puffy, or bleeding gums, bad breath, or visibly receded gums.

At this stage, your dog can still be treated and recover.


Stage Three 

This is when things start to turn for the worse. By this point, 25-50% of the tooth support is gone. Symptoms will be the same as stages one and two but will also include loose teeth. Your dog will require advanced procedures and diligent home dental care.

They may also require pulled teeth at this stage.


Stage Four 

By this stage of the game, 50% of the tooth’s attachments are lost. Symptoms will now include tooth root exposure, loose teeth, loss of teeth, and pus or ooze around the teeth. Teeth will need to be extracted to deal with the disease at this point.


Other Symptoms To Watch For

In general, look out for bad breath, crusty gum lines, blood in their mouth, signs of pain when they are eating, pawing at their mouths, change of chewing or eating habits, subdued behavior, and excessive dribbling.

Also, be on the lookout for behavioral changes, including reluctance to play with chew toys, inability to stand tooth brushing, flinching when touching their teeth, and mouth aggression.

Doggy Dental Care

Since we now know the risks of letting your pup’s mouth get out of control, let’s check out how to keep them clean!


Brush, Brush, Brush!

Someone pass the toothpaste! Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is a crucial defense against plaque-causing gingivitis. It also promotes good overall oral health.

While brushing two to three times a day for humans is suggested, your pup can get away with less frequent maintenance. That being said, the more you brush them, the better off your dog will be.

All you need to get started is a canine toothbrush and paste. If you have an old toothbrush, that will work fine, too. Just be sure to never use human toothpaste on your dog as it has ingredients that are toxic to them.

Have your dog sit or lie down and then begin to brush each tooth as you would your own. Easier said than done, of course. Some dogs love getting their teeth brushed, but most will fight you. If your dog puts up a fight, train them to sit still the same way you would train them to sit or stay; use treats as an incentive and be patient. 

Make a habit of brushing their teeth at least once a week.


Sign a TREATy

Dogs love treats! All different kinds of treats, from meat sticks to bones. Make their treat time work for them by incorporating some dog dental treats into the mix. These snacks are made to remove plaque and tartar from your dog’s teeth, two of the leading causes of gum disease.

 They clean your pup’s mouth and promote healthy gums and fresh breath by removing 60-70% of oral bacteria. Keep in mind that some of these products can cause belly aches or choking, so make sure you supervise your fur beast when they are enjoying a chew.

Tooth Wipe Out

Nothing will replace a good old-fashioned brush, but tooth wipes will still be able to remove some of the biofilm from your pup’s mouth. Because canine teeth have more grooves and crevices than human teeth, these wipes won’t be as effective, but they can make a difference in fighting diseases.

If your dog is being a bit difficult and resisting the brush, try using tooth wipes to squeeze in a quick clean. These are usually easier to use than a brush and toothpaste, which might make them a good option if your dog is still not able to sit still for a deep scrub.

Take Advantage of Chewing

Dogs are notorious little chewers. Chewing helps with your dog’s anxiety and pent-up energy. It gives them something to do while you are busy with other important tasks. Why not take advantage of their endless love of chewing by giving them something beneficial to chew on?

While any toys that your dog chews are good for your dog’s teeth and gums since the gnawing motion helps scrape plaque, some chew toys are better than others. Some will mimic the look of a toy bone but have hidden bristles layered inside of it to scrape your dog’s teeth. They can also massage the gums and rids pockets of any build-up.

Plastic chew toys are also low-calorie (or no-calorie, as the case may be) which makes them a great choice if your dog is getting a bit chunky!


Check in With the Professionals

If you have done all of the above but still want your pup to have shiny teeth, consider taking them to get a professional. Veterinary dental services will cover all sorts of dog oral health issues, often at the same time.


Even if you take care to clean your dog’s teeth, you can still miss something. Having a vet do an oral exam is the best way to make sure your dog’s teeth are healthy.