Are your dog’s loving licks more offensive than affectionate?
Dogs lick their pet parents for all sorts of reasons, but mainly because they love them! Licking is an important way that dogs communicate with each other. From the mother licking her newborn pup to the submissive dog licking a dominant one…licks have different meanings.
But when your dog shares a lick-of-love…and you recoil in a fit of coughing, then it’s time to face facts and ask: Why does my dog’s breath smell?
What does Normal Dog Breath Smell Like?
A good starting point is to realise that a healthy dog breath doesn’t have a particular smell. If your dog can clear the room just by breathing, there’s a good chance their breath is genuinely rancid.
Think of bad breath in dogs in the same way as in people: There shouldn’t be a strong odour. In fact, just as you wouldn’t tolerate bad breath in the family, neither should you from the fur-family.
The trick with your four-legger is to work out ‘Why does my dog’s breath smell?’ and identify the underlying cause, which provides the means by way to fix it.
There are many causes of bad breath in dogs, some minor and others more significant.
Here are some of the most common and the most important causes of bad breath in dogs:
Effect of food
Dental disease and bad breath
Ill Health as a cause of canine halitosis
All of which we will now cover in more detail below.
The Effect of Food
The old saying ‘You are what you eat’, applies just as much to dog breath. The dog that scavenges rubbish is going to have breath that smells like a sewer. Likewise, a dog fed on spicy table scraps or given large amounts of garlic (NB Garlic is a bad idea for dogs as it can damage their red blood cells) is going to have stinky breath.
The same goes for cheap dog foods. These contain a lot of filler ingredients that are harder to digest. This leads to fermentation in the gut and a double whammy of not just bad breath, but flatulence to boot. Also, strong flavours, especially fish, tend to linger on the breath.
Stick to bland foods if their breath is a problem.
Indeed, if in doubt about the part doos plays in your dog’s bad breath, pop them onto a bland diet for a few days. Detox with chicken and rice for a week and see if their breath improves.
Could it be Worms?
Intestinal worms are never a good thing as they cause diarrhoea, ill thrift, poor appetite, and vomiting. It stands to reason that a dog with an upset stomach is going to have bad breath.
Be sure to keep on top of regular deworming, for the sake of their general health and to promote fresh breath kisses.
What if your dog’s breath has a peculiarly fishy-odour to it, and yet they don’t eat fish?
The answer could well lie with their anal glands. These small sacs that sit either side of the anus, produce a particularly offensive secretion reminiscent of rancid fish. The purpose of this substance is to mark the dog’s faeces with a unique scent signature.
But there are circumstances where a dog licks their own butt, only to contaminate their mouth with anal sac secretion. The result is ‘oh-so-yewh breath’, with a pungent fishy aroma. The worst part is that the smell really sticks, so once it gets up your nose you’ll smell it for the rest of the day.
If your suspect anal glands are a source of your pet’s fishy breath, then pay a visit to the vet (Or a good dog groomer). They can express the gland and drain out the stinky contents, whilst also checking no infection is present.
Dental Disease and Bad Breath
Now for a big cause of bad breath – dental disease!
The inside of a mouth is a warm moist place, which makes it a favoured breeding ground for bacteria. Then throw into the mix that a dog can’t brush their own teeth, and you’re likely to be left with unpleasant dog breath.
Dental disease can, however, vary in severity. At the lowest end of the scale is the dog with plaque (a sticky residue of food debris, bacteria, and minerals coating the enamel) whilst at the top end are tooth root infections that discharge pus into the mouth.
To check if dental disease is the answer to ‘Why does my dog’s breath smell?’ , lift their lip. The inside of a dog’s mouth should be much like ours, with clean white dental crowns and nice pink gums.
If what you see is an angry red line when the gum meets the teeth, then the dog has gingivitis which is a form of dental disease. If the teeth look yellow or brown, rather than white, the chances are they are coated in plaque or mineralised plaque which is known as tartar.
Dental disease should be assessed by your vet. A smelly mouth has a lot of bacteria in it, which you don’t want getting into the dog’s bloodstream. Speak to your vet about the safest and best way of getting those gnashers pearly white again.
Ill Health as a Cause of Canine Halitosis
Sadly, canine halitosis can be a sign the pet is unwell. Certain conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, are linked to peculiar smelly breath.
In the case of kidney disease, the classic smell is one of ammonia. Whilst in the case of diabetes the dog may have a sickly sweet breath reminiscent of acetone-based nail polish remover.
The signs don’t occur in isolation, and if the dog’s kidneys are so poorly that their breath smells, then they will also show other signs of ill health. Typically, keep an eye out for greater thirst and the increased peeing that goes with it. Also be vigilant for other telltale signs because it’s important not to miss, such as changed appetite, and weight loss. If in doubt, always see a vet and get the dog checked out.
Why Does my Dog’s Breath Smell?
There are many reasons for a dog to have bad breath. Some are easily fixable by a simple change of diet or giving a deworming pill. Other causes require dental attention from the vet or for an underlying health problem to be managed.
Whatever the cause, be aware that bad breath may be ‘normal’ but it’s not right. A healthy dogs mouth shouldn’t smell. And whilst their licks will never be the equivalent of fairy dew, neither should they be offensive.
The good news is that you can take control. Feed a good quality diet, regularly de-worm the dog, and brush their teeth every day and you’re a lot closer to a healthy mouth and banishing bad breath.
If you love canines but hate hairy cushions, then investigating low shedding dogs could be the paw-fect answer.
Whilst strictly speaking there’s no such thing as no shedding dog, there are low shedding dog breeds which mean less hair in the house and more on the hound.
Allergic People and Low Shedding Dogs
Being allergic to dogs is a crying shame…literally. Touching a dog or coming into contact with their hair can cause sneezing, a runny nose, and streaming eyes. So are low shedding dogs the answer?
People with a dog allergy react not just to dog hair, but to dog dander and even their saliva. It is the proteins present in dog secretions which tend to trigger the allergy. So whilst minimizing exposure to dog hair is going to help, it won’t eliminate the risk of an allergic reaction.
In short, if you suffer from an allergy to dogs, then even dogs that shed the least may not prevent the problem. So be realistic and know that sadly dog ownership might not be right for you.
Breeds to Suit the House Proud Pet Parent
OK, so you crave a canine in your life, but don’t want to compromise on cleanliness. What’s to be done?
Which Dogs Shed the Least?
The good news is there are breeds that shed less than others. If you can’t think beyond the poodle (the ultimate low shedding dog breed) then take a look at this Kennel Club approved list of low shedding dogs.
Shed hairs are dead hairs. Your options to reduce shedding include keeping the coat in peak health and catching shed hair on a brush.
Feed for a Healthy Coat
Keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy by feeding a balanced diet. In addition, supplements rich in omega 3 & 6 oils help nourish the baby skin cells and ensure strong hair follicles. But don’t expect an instant response. It takes around 4 – 6 weeks of supplementation before those germs cells reach the skin’s surface and the coat starts to gleam like a seals.
Regular coat brushing captures the hair on the brush, rather than on the sofa.
The other great news is that grooming stimulates the circulation to the skin and spreads natural conditioning oils. Both of which makes for healthy hair that stays longer in the follicle.
If you are allergic to dogs, then a low shedding dog breed will help but isn’t the whole answer. It’s also a good idea to bathe the dog regularly in order to reduce that allergenic dander.
However, this does risk stripping away those natural oils and causing the skin to dry out. So be sure to use a mild shampoo, preferably one that’s moisturizing. Look for products rich in oatmeal or aloe vera.
The Low Down on Low Shedding Dog Breeds
Yes there some breeds shed less than others; but no, this might not help dog allergy sufferers.
Yes, low shedding dogs help keep the level of hair down in the house, but be aware there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog. Sometimes, the responsible thing to do is realize that sadly, a dog isn’t for you. It would be awful to fall in love with a fur-friend, only to discover their fur doesn’t love you back.
Chocolate toxicity occurs because pet parents lower their guard. No-one ever sets out to poison their pet…and yet it happens all too easily.
As an example, take the following real-life situation: Mrs. W had just been discharged from hospital after a serious illness. A steady stream of well-wishers called, bearing gifts and good cheer. One visitor brought a special treat of a box of handmade chocolates in an ornate carton tied with a ribbon, lovingly presented in an expensive gift bag.
Mrs. W was grateful for the thought, and her husband dutifully set the present aside whilst she talked to her visitor. Unfortunately, Bonzo, the family dog spotted the package and investigated. Chewing through the packaging he quickly ate half the high-cocoa content goodies before anyone noticed he was missing…
Don’t let this be you. But if the worse did happen, knowing what to do could save your dog’s life.
Why Does Chocolate Kill Dogs?
Chocolate makes us feel good, and there’s a reason for that…it contains various chemical substances that affect body and mind.
But people are different to dogs. Foods that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs, of which chocolate is a prime example.
Specifically, chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine. Both are stimulants from a family of substances that dogs are particularly sensitive to. Whereas we might feel energised and revived by a couple of squares of the dark stuff, the story for a dog is very different.
Theobromine prolongs the time a nerve sends out messages telling muscles to contract. It also amplifies how those muscles respond. This adds up to skeletal muscles and the heart muscle contracting harder and more frequently. It’s as though the dog is running a marathon, right there in your living room.
Take this to an extreme, just as runners collapse from over-exerting themselves, so a dog can collapse from chocolate toxicity. In the worst cases, the dog either have seizures or a heart attack and die.
Different Risks for Different Dogs
Some dogs are more at risk than others.
Whereas one dog may scoff down a whole bar of chocolate with no lasting effect, for another dog of the same size, a few squares could be toxic.
This is down to a lack of a hormone that metabolizes chocolate. Less of this hormone and the effects are worse and stick around for far longer. (If you want to get technical, this is known as CYP1A2 1117C>T polymorphism.)
Also, because theobromine is a stimulant that pushes the heart hard, dogs with pre-existing heart disease are in greater peril. The strain on their circulation of a ‘chocolate high’ may be too much and cause a fatal heart attack.
The Symptoms of Chocolate Poisoning
Chocolate is rich stuff, so even if the dog avoids dramatic symptoms, expect sickness and diarrhoea as an after effect.
For the majority of dogs, the sign depend on how much they’ve eaten. (Except, that is, for those dogs with CYP1A2 1117C>T polymorphism who are high risk from even a small amount of chocolate.)
Signs of chocolate toxicity in dogs includes:
A thirsty dog
Unexplained panting or shaking
The dog acts super-anxious
Sickness and diarrhoea
But if you find Fido beside an empty chocolate box don’t wait for symptoms to develop. Act immediately.
What to Do if a Dog Eats Chocolate
Time is of the essence. The best option is to seek veterinary attention and make the dog vomit. But this has to be quick. Any longer than two hours after the event, and the chocolate is past the point of no-return in the small intestine.
Here’s what to do:
Remove the dog from the chocolate: Keep the dog where you can watch him and he can’t escape. You’ll may need an emergency trip to the vet.
Estimate how much chocolate the dog ate: Weigh what’s left and keep the packaging. The vet will need to know the weight of the bar and the percentage cocoa solids
Phone the vet: Hopefully they have your dog’s weight on record. They can then do a sum to find out if the dog has had a worrying amount of chocolate
Follow the vet’s advice: This may include blue-lighting the dog to the clinic.
Symptoms of chocolate poisoning often start 2 – 4 hours after the event. The theobromine can also stick around in the body and be re-processed through the liver, so you’re not out of the woods for around 24 hours.
The vet may prescribe activated charcoal to give by mouth every four hours. This helps absorb any theobromine lingering in the gut to reduce the amount in the bloodstream.
Prevention is Better than Cure
It’s not unheard of for a dog to climb on a chair to reach a table to get at goodies…so don’t take any risks. The only safe chocolate is that stored in a cupboard out of the dog’s reach.
Be security minded with regards to chocolate and keep it somewhere safe…like your stomach.
A Luxury Life-line
What became of Bonzo and his luxury chocolate binge extravaganza?
Bonzo ate nearly 150 grams of chocolates (enough to cause serious toxicity in such a small dog). But fortunately the luxury product was mainly a filling full of sugar, cream, and butter, which were only coated in plain chocolate. Thus, the actual quantity of dark stuff was much lower.
In reality, the actual amount of chocolate consumed was low and he coped fine. Bonzo went home with a bottle of activated charcoal and an owner aware of the narrow escape they’d had.
A happy ending for Bonzo. But better still…don’t go there. Keep dogs and chocolate apart.
The simplest questions can have the most intriguing answers.
For example: Why do dogs pant? There’s an obvious answer that most people are aware of. Of course dogs pant to lose heat. Dogs don’t sweat so evaporation of saliva from the tongue is how they cool down.
But to think that heat control is the only reason dogs pant is to ignore important information our pet pals are telling us. For example, a dog panting in the vet’s waiting room isn’t hot, but anxious. Whilst the old dog panting at night may be in pain.
Let’s look beyond the obvious to some different scenarios and ask: Why do dogs pant?
Why Do Dogs Pant in the Car?
You have the air con on and the temperature’s comfortable. The dog can’t be hot, so why do dogs pant in the car?
If this is a trip to the park, then the dog is unlikely to be fearful. However, many dogs experience motion sickness and feelings of nausea which can cause panting. Your fur-friend will probably also drool heavily, covering their chin, chest, and your knee in salivary slobber. This is because they feel sick and find it difficult to swallow.
The anticipation of being sick can also make them anxious, which causes panting. In common with people, dogs can also condition themselves to expect to feel ill. So if the dog isn’t a good traveller and sees the car door open, they many anticipate being sick, their anxiety levels increase, and they start panting before even stepping into the car.
Have you ever noticed how problems prey on your mind more at night? In the darkness of the small hours there’s little to distract you from the same thought going round and round in your brain.
Similarly, if a dog has an achy joint or toothache, in the dark of the night there’s nothing to distract them. Pain causes stress, and stress causes panting. Therefore, if your dog is fine by day but pants a lot at night, it’s as well to wonder if they are in discomfort.
Check the dog over. Be especially vigilant for ear infections and sore teeth, which are discomforts the dog can ignore by day. So if your dog is acting out of character by panting at night, take notice of the message they’re sending out and book a checkup with the vet.
Why Do Old Dogs Pant Excessively?
Is the dog in pain? An older dog may have stiff arthritic joints and discomfort causes them to pant. But this isn’t the only reason.
As part of the ageing process, the airways can be affected. This can mean the lungs thicken and become less efficient at gas exchange. Or the larynx, which polices the entrance to the windpipe, becomes less supple and restricts the amount of air entering the lungs
Either of these things makes it more difficult to suck in oxygen and for it cross into the bloodstream. When blood oxygen levels fall, the brain sends out a message telling the dog to breathe faster. This, panting can be a sign of airway disease.
Of course, always see the vet if your pet has rapid or distressed breathing.
Why Do Flat-Faced Dogs Pant so Much?
Adorable as pekes, pugs, and Frenchies are, those flat-faces aren’t great when it comes to breathing. A combination of anatomical quirks make it difficult for the dog to breathe. These include:
An unnaturally narrow windpipe: Some breeds, such as Bulldogs, often have a hypoplastic trachea. In layman’s speak this means the tube through which the dog breaths is too narrow. Think of this like trying to empty water out of bottle through a narrow neck rather than a wide one, and you’ll see how it interferes with flow.
An overly long soft palate: A long soft palate acts like a curtain over the entrance to the windpipe. Remember, how on a blisteringly hot summer’s day you open the curtains wide to increase ventilation or close them tight to shut out the air. The same thing happens with a long soft palate.
Narrow nostrils: Just as we open the window wider to get more air in, so the width of a dog’s nostrils help them breathe. Unfortunately, our flat faced friends often have narrow, squidged nostrils which also restrict air flow.
Large tonsils: And adding insult to injury large tonsils take up yet more room at the back of the throat and further reduce air flow. (Add up all the implications and taking out pet insurance suddenly seems a genius idea.)
When taking a deep breath is difficult, the answer is to take more smaller breaths, which means panting.
Why Do Dogs Pant?
There’s more to panting than meets the eye!
Yes, dogs pant to lose heat. But they also pant when in pain, anxious, nauseous, or because they’re struggling to breathe.
From pain to a heart problem, panting could be a vital clue your dog needs medical attention. If your dog’s panting is out of character, take a video to show to the vet and book an appointment. And for those fur-friends with flat-faces, be especially careful with these guys in hot weather and keep them in the shade.
A dog is man’s best friend but a lawn’s worst enemy.
It’s a familiar sight: A lush green lawn pockmarked with ugly brown patches. This causes many a pet parent to scratch their head and wonder: Why does dog wee kill grass?
So let’s ask the question. Is your answer:
a) Dog pee is acidic b) It’s the high nitrogen content c) Dog pee is very concentrated and burns the grass.
The correct answer is (b) it has a high nitrogen/urea content.
Why is Dog Pee Bad for Grass? Protein, Nitrogen, and Ammonia
What do you look for in a best food for dogs? Ideally you study the product’s ingredients. The best foods have a named meat heading up the list. Or perhaps you go the whole hog and feed a raw diet.
Dogs are omnivores that thrive on a meat-rich diet. But those chicken fillets or beef mince are high in protein. During digestion protein is broken down into ammonia-like molecules and nitrogen. This is then harmlessly got rid of urine.
What common household product is also high in ammonia? Yep, bleach!
And pour bleach on grass and what do you get? Dead grass.
Which is pretty much what’s happening when the dog pees on the lawn. But of course, things are a tad more complicated than this.
For a start, nitrogen can be a good thing….in the right quantities. Yep, Dilute nitrogen is a fertilizer…so it’s all in the concentration. Too much is bad, while a little can be a good thing.
Which brings us nicely onto the male vs female dog as destroyers of healthy looking lawns.
Four Legs Bad, Three Legs Good?
It’s widely accepted that female dogs are worse for grass health than male. This is because of the dynamics of how a dog pees.
A female dog peeing squats, with her nether regions close to the ground. This results in a localized puddle of pee.
In contrast, a male dog peeing cocks a leg to sprinkle a tuft of grass, tree, or fence post. It’s this ‘spreading pee thinly’ that saves the grass where the boys are concerned.
Run with this logic and you soon see that a female dog from a large breed (who therefore has a bigger bladder capacity and produces lakes of pee, rather than puddles,) is the worst offender.
How to Stop Dog Pee Killing Grass
Let’s look at the facts, in order to find a solution to dog peeing on grass and killing it. What we know is:
Dog pee is high in nitrogen products
Too much nitrogen kills grass
The more concentrated the pee, the worse the problem
This gives us three ways to ban brown and encourage green growth.
Good Quality Diet: OK, so meat is high protein, so what about feeding a vegetarian diet? Wrong! The more highly digestible the protein, the less waste product is present in urine. Meat is highly digestible whereas plant based protein is not. The best option is a high quality food made from a named meat, so that the dog digests most of the goodness with less waste nitrogen produced.
Too Much of a Good Thing: When the dog pees, they add nitrogen to the lawn. If you are already regularly fertilizing the grass, this leads to a ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ scenario. Instead, suck right back on additional fertilizers so the grass isn’t overwhelmed with nitrogen.
Weak as Water: Encourage the dog to drink and their urine is weaker. Less concentrated pee isn’t a problem. (Proof of this is the extra lush ring of grass around the urine burn. This is where the nitrogen content is more dilute and works to feed the lawn.) Try switching from dry to canned food, or add water to their kibble. In addition, water the grass regularly so that the ground is moist and will dilute a wee-shower. And yes, watching the dog and tipping a pan of water of the spot, also works a treat…but rather labour intensive.
Which Plants are Dog Pee Resistant?
The grasses that are most resistant are those with deep roots, such as rye or fescue. Those deep roots suck up water from deeper in the soil, where the nitrogen content is lower.
On the downside, some grasses are more nitrogen sensitive than others. These include Bermuda grass and bluegrass. Sow these seeds on a dry surface that regularly used by a female dog and the garden quickly becomes a poster-boy for brown-patch central.
But combine a hardy grass such as rye or fescue with daily watering, and you stand the best chance of a croquet-smooth, green lawn.
It’s the Acid in Urine that Does It…NOT!
A common misapprehension is that dog pee kills grass because it’s so acidic. Not true.
Question: What neutralizes dog pee? Answer: Don’t go there!
The pH of healthy dog urine is around pH 6.5 to 7.0 . This is within a hair’s breadth of neutral and is best not messed with.
Bear in mind that this is on a scale of zero to 14, with neutral being 7.0, and acid registering at 6.0 or below.
In fact, acid urine is not normal and an important clue that a dog may have a lower urinary tract infection. Indeed, acid urine promotes the formation of certain crystals and bladder stones. This makes it an important problem to identify and correct for the sake of your dog’s good health.
Some old wives tales such as giving the dog bicarbonate of soda or even orange juice, can potentially do more harm than good. By manipulating the pH of canine urine, you can accidentally induce crystal formation. When crystals clump together in pee to form stones, the dog can be in serious trouble. Don’t go there.
Why does dog wee kill grass?
A combination of nitrogen waste products and strong urine is what kills grass.
Combat the problem by keeping the lawn watered and encouraging the dog to drink more. Or, go with the flow, give up croquet, and accept those brown patches are what makes your garden unique on Google maps!