Celia Haddon - Cat Expert

Understanding animals through their behaviour


Bad breath (smelly at the front not the back) is potentially serious. It may be a sign of

1. serious disease
2. dental disease.
3. eating foul things on walks

Therefore you must go to a vet about it.


If your dog has a serious underlying disease, then that disease must be treated.

If your dog has tooth problems, then the teeth and gums need a proper and correct overhaul and examination, and any problems need to be dealt with, by extraction, gum surgery and so on, and a complete (including subgingival) work-out done. This is worth having done by an expert dental vet – many vet surgeries have regular visiting experts. This article is written with the help of one of them – Evelyn Barbour-Hill of the British Veterinary Dental Association

If your dog is eating foul stuff on walks train it to come when called and consult the article on Dogs that eat their own and others’ poo


You will save in vet’s bills and your dog will be healthier! There is growing evidence of a direct link between gum problems and heart, liver and kidney disease in dogs. One in three operations among dogs that involve anaesthesia are due to oral health problems.

If you have already had to pay a vet for doing work on your dog’s teeth, you will probably need to pay for a repeat operation – unless you keep your dog’s teeth clean. So although toothbrushes and chews cost money, you will save money in the long run.

You can now buy doggy toothpaste and brushes from vets and pet shops. Accustom your dog to having its teeth cleaned from puppy stage. It will increase its chances of keeping healthy teeth all its life.

It is important to get a proper dog toothbrush and proper dog toothpaste. Dogs loathe the foaming kind of toothpaste that we humans like. Ask your vet or the veterinary nurse to demonstrate how to brush. Brush at least three times a week, preferably more. Dogs with an existing gum or tooth problem need daily brushing.

If you have a difficult or frightened dog, take advice from a behaviourist before starting tooth brushing. A growl is a warning that should be taken seriously. You don’t want to get bitten.


Kneel on the floor with the dog sitting between your knees facing away from you. With big dogs it may be easier to kneel next to the dog. With smaller dogs some people may prefer to sit the dog on a coffee table or to get cosy on the sofa with him. Give your dog a treat before your start and have properly designed doggy toothbrush ready with doggy toothpaste on it.

Use the hand that is not holding the brush to steady, hold and raise the dog’s chin. Do NOT attempt to open the mouth. Slide the brush under the cheek and slide it right past the back teeth. These are further back than you might think… behind the eye. Quietly slide the brush back and forth along the row of teeth two or three times, then angle it downwards a little and slide it two or three more times to brush the lower teeth.

Take it out, possibly reload with toothpaste and repeat the process on the other side. Unless you are ambidextrous, you will find one side slightly trickier than the other. You do NOT need to brush up and down or round and round. You do not try to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth.

Then hold the brush quite near its head in a very artistic fashion, and do the sides of the four canine teeth, and then do the incisor teeth: the incisors you brush down, or up, away from the gum, and not side to side. You may want to raise the lips with your thumb in order to see the canines and incisors.

If a dog objects to tooth brushing, it is always these front teeth that he is sensitive about. This takes less than a minute. It takes longer to collect the dog, the brush, the paste and yourself all in one place than it does to do the brushing.

Take things quietly and don’t expect to do a complete job right from the start. It’s better to do a bit every day, even if it is rather haphazard, than to aim at perfection, get into a struggle and end up never doing it.

Always, always, give the dog a treat after brushing.


For dogs who will not allow their teeth cleaned, the answer is chewing –  large hide chews, pigs ears, found in pet shops, branded chews like DentazStix or DentaRask or Veggiedent. The more the dog has to chew the better so buy chews of a size larger than the breed recommendation. If you play tug games with your dog, cotton rope toys will also help clean teeth a little. There is also Vet Aquadent, an anti-plague solution to be put in drinking water.

There is are prescription diets which are specially made to help keep teeth clean available from your vet. If you have a dog with a tendency to tooth troubles, use one of these. Or try the BARF diet (www.holisticvet.co.uk) that consists of raw meaty bones and fresh fruit and veg. It is essential to read up on this first. Don’t start feeding your animal just raw flesh meat. It must have a mixture of meat, bones, and raw veg. Proportions are important, stricty hygeine is essential, and this diet will not suit every owner or every dog.


These notes are my copyright. I am also usually happy to have the exact words reproduced on websites, in return for a link, my name, and if permission is asked beforehand. I like to check the websites where it might be used. Email me via this website for permission which will usually be given. Organisations wishing to use them in print should contact me via this website. Copyright © 2007 Celia Haddon. All Rights Reserved.

Safety notice.

All normal safety precautions should be taken when dealing with animals. The advice in this section should be taken only at the owner’s own risk. All sick animals should be seen by a vet.

General advice of the kind found in this website is no substitute for an individual consultation with a vet or qualified behaviourist working on a vet’s referral.

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