Anyone who has ever suffered with the pain and discomfort of toothache or problems with their gums will empathise with the poor dog who, after all, has only got his mouth as a means to pick things up, communicate, eat and even play.

Gum disease in dogs is not only a more serious health problem than a lot of people are aware of,. That said, it can quite easily be prevented if dog owners take the time to pay enough attention to whats going on in their dog’s mouth and spot the signs and early symptoms of dog gum disease.

Spotting the signs of gum problems in dogs

If your dogs gums are turning very pale in colour. Be warned it could be SERIOUS

Dermatologists place a high value on paleness because the less sun you get, the lower your risk for skin cancer. However, Vets, have always preferred the colour pink, at least when they are looking at your pets gums.

When the gums change from bubble-gum pink to pale, this is an indication that oxygen is probably in short supply, and there is an internal problem that needs to be taken care of.

Healthy gums in dogs

Pale gums frequently mean that a pet has a shortage of red blood cells, a condition called Anemia. This is serious because red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. When there is a shortage, oxygen levels fall, and a pet can get weak and tired.

One of the most common causes of Anemia are Parasites. Its important to be mindful that dogs and cats only produce just enough red blood cells to stay healthy.Consequently when fleas, hookworms, or other blood-sucking parasites are drinking their fill, there may not be enough blood to go around. Furthermore, pale gums may be a sign of internal bleeding, resulting from ulcers or even cancer. Hence, if allowed to go on for a long time then it can also cause Anemia.

Light-coloured gums can also be caused by a serious condition called Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.

What happens with this condition?

The immune system mistakenly destroys red blood cells.

This type of Anemia may be hereditary, with Cocker Spaniels, Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies, English Springer Spaniels, Old English Sheepdogs, Irish Setters, and Poodles having the highest risk.

Lastly, Anemia may be a side effect of medications. Drugs such as Estrogen, Chloramphenicol (an antibiotic), and Phenylbutazone (taken for pain) may inhibit the blood marrow from producing red blood cells. In addition, dogs that are taking aspirin for pain will sometimes develop ulcers and internal bleeding.

Its important to remember that pale gums is not necessarily a sign that your pet has Anemia. For example, after a serious accident, blood pressure can fall to dangerously low levels because the heart is so busy pumping blood to vital organs that it neglects more-distant regions like the gums, toes, or the tips of the ears. This drop in blood pressure and the resulting pale gums means that a pet is going into shock and needs emergency care.

Giving pets a balanced diet will help them recover from many forms of Anemia. Although your vet may recommend putting your pet on a prescription diet that is high in minerals, protein, and vitamins. NEVER give your pet(s) iron supplements without your vets advice because they can be toxic.

Even though Anemia can be dangerous, it is usually not that difficult to restore the red blood cells to healthful levels. Pets that are plagued by fleas, for example, will often recover within three to four days once you get rid of the little pests. However, because Anemia can make pets very weak, it is a good idea to avoid flea dips, powders, or other strong medications.

Bad breath in dogs: Could gum disease be the problem?

If your dog has bad breath, it could signal the sign of disease so get your dog checked by a vet; as bad breath can be the earliest warning sign of canine gum disease and is easy to detect.

Foul Breath, Plaque and Gingivitis

  • All of these become more common in older dogs, especially if you have not taken care to keep your dogs teeth clean throughout his or her life.

  • Regular dental checkups may be necessary to ensure that any serious problems are quickly treated but by regularly brushing your dogs teeth.

  • Owners can actively avoid problems in the first place.

Can bad breath actually kill your dog?

It’s important to cure bad breath in dogs when it occurs because you could loose a dog to periodontal disease, which often accompanies tartar buildup and foul breath in dogs.

The tartar buildup on a dogs teeth fosters the growth of odour producing and potential harmful bacteria. If these bacteria become too numerous, and the gums become inflamed, bacteria can invade tissue, even travel to other parts of the body and set up abscesses and other types of infection there. Some dogs have suffered deep jaw abscess that are basically untreatable.

If you dog has foul smelling breath, deal with it now.

Bad breath in dogs is more common in older pets because the tartar builds up over the course of a lifetime unless you have the dogs teeth cleaned regularly.

I’ve found that its easier to prevent than to cure bad breath in my dog. The idea of brushing a dogs teeth may seem ridiculous, but there are toothpastes on the market specifically designed for dogs and cats.

  • Dog tooth paste is available in pleasant meaty flavours that the animals love.

  • You can slowly train your dog to tolerate a daily brushing with an enzyme toothpaste formulated to dissolve tartar.

  • Another way to fight tartar is to give a dog chew toys and bones to literally scrape the tartar off the teeth.

Over the years, Ive found that many of these arent very appealing to my pet and therefore dont really work to cure bad breath in my dog, however, recently, I discovered the tartar buster.” It’s basically a spherical piece of bone about 3 inches in diameter.

  • If dog owners who start this routine when the animal is quite young, then bad breath in dogs can be avoided altogether.

My dog loves tartar busters and they work miraculously well to scrape off tartar and clear up bad breath in dog. As with any bone, watch your dog to be sure it doesnt swallow large chunks while chewing on it.

If all else fails, you vet may recommend a cleaning under Anesthetic to remove heavy tartar. This is expensive and it can be risky for older animals, but it is well worth it to avoid a serious and possibly life-threatening illness later on.

Gingivitis in dogs

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum causing them to become red and swollen. This condition is generally caused by the buildup of plaque. Plaque is the result of when bacteria which is normally found in the mouth mixes with starches and proteins from the saliva, plaque is very gritty in nature and sticks to the teeth. This plaque later on tends to become tartar which accumulates near the gum line.

If gingivitis is left untreated it can lead to tooth decay.

How do you know if your dog has gingivitis?

The most visible sign is the redness of the gums and the swelling. Thereafter you will need to take your dog to the vet who will carry out diagnostic tests in order to pin down exactly whats happening. The vet may need to use some sort of sedation or anesthesia to carry out a thorough examination.

The examination

Complete dental charting and periodontal probing will be carried out in order to gauge the amount of damage caused to the oral cavity. Based on the findings a suitable treatment will be suggested.

The vet may also opt to carry out a dye test.( A red coloured dye is placed on the teeth. The plaque then sucks up the dye allowing the amount of plaque to be seen easily). If required further tests may include a full blood count, serum biochemistry and urine analysis to gain a better understanding of the overall health of the dog especially if it is going to be sedated.

X-rays may also be necessary in order to evaluate your dogs teeth. It is important to be mindful that most of the tooth structure is below the gums, so without an x-ray its impossible to completely diagnose Periodontitis. An X-rays will also help in discovering serious problems like tooth root abscesses. In severe gingivitis cases, a biopsy may also be required


As a cure, ultrasonic scaling will be used. This involves thorough cleaning above and below the gum line, and polishing the teeth, which will cure gingivitis and future occurrences.

  • To stop gingivitis affecting your dog again you need to ensure that you brush your dogs teeth every few days. Just as humans, dogs need their teeth brushed as well.

  • NEVER use normal human tooth paste; buy special tooth paste for dogs which is poultry or meat flavoured.

  • Initially when you start brushing your dogs teeth you may want to use a finger brush because your dog is unfamiliar with having something put into his or her mouth in this manner.

  • Once your dog gets used to the idea of getting his/her teeth brushed, then move on to a conventional brush because its only through the conventional brush that you can reach at the far back of the jaw.

  • Apart from brushing your dogs teeth you may want to introduce him or her to some chews or bones which are very effective in stopping plaque build up and can also aid in the exercise of jaw muscles.

Pyorrhoea in dogs

This is a more advanced stage of periodontal disease. Infection of the bone that leads to tooth lose and bad breath allowing disease and infection to spread to the rest your dogs body eventually infecting every organ.


Gum disease in dogs might not only make your dogs life a misery, but can actually cause death from complications. Help your dog avoid gum disease by regular brushing, frequent vet checks and feeding them a healthy diet thats good for their teeth and overall health. Canine gum disease is an overlooked yet potentially deadly dog health problem.

The signs of poor oral health are:-

Bad breath

Sensitivity around the mouth

Loss of appetite

Difficulty chewing and eating

Pawing at the mouth

Loose or missing teeth

Bleeding, inflamed or receding gums

  • Tartar (Creamy-Brown hard coating on teeth)

How to brush your dogs teeth

Regular brushing of your dogs teeth will help prevent poor oral health.

This is easy to do and doesnt take long:-

  • Choose a time when both you and your dog are both feeling relaxed.

  • For the first few days hold your pet as you would when petting him or her, while gently stroking the outside of the cheeks with your finger. Do this daily for about a week.

  • After your dog has become comfortable with this, the next step is to buy pet toothpaste, such as CET toothpaste which is especially designed for dogs, comes in poultry flavour and doesnt need to be rinsed.

  • DONT use human toothpaste or baking soda as they contain ingredients which should not be swallowed.

  • You also need to buy a pet toothbrush, such as CET finger brush or duel-ended brush. These are ultra soft and shaped to fit your dogs mouth and teeth.

  • When brushing is not practical, an antibacterial oral rinse or gel may be recommended, for example. Logic oral hygiene gel.

  • To begin with, place a small amount of toothpaste on your finger to let your dog sample the flavour.

  • Then introduce your dog to the pet toothbrush. Put a small amount of pet toothpaste on the brush, gently raise your dogs upper lip and place the brush against the outer side of an upper tooth.

  • With a slow, circular motion gently brush only that tooth and adjoining gum line.

  • Each day gradually increase the number of teeth brushed trying to ensure you dont go beyond your dogs point of comfort.

  • Build up to about 30 seconds of brushing each side.

  • Always reward with lots of praise or a play session after each tooth brushing experience.

Diet also affects your dog’s oral health

Soft or sticky foods may contribute to plaque build up, so try and give your dog a dry food diet. Dry foods, like biscuits or the newly formulated abrasive diets are recommended as they can help remove plaque and food debris from the gum line where bacteria flourish.

Diets such as Hills T/D and CET chews are recommended and are helpful on the days you arent able to brush your dogs teeth. However, it should be emphasised that brushing is the only way to remove plaque and food debris from below the gum line.

If you follow an oral hygiene plan for your dog youll soon put a beautiful smile on their face and add years to their life.


A vet can assess the condition of a dog’s teeth and confirm that this is where the odour is coming from. It’s important to rule out other health problems that can cause an odour on the breath. Your vet can also advise you about what steps you should take, based on the degree of tartar and periodontal disease.