Between 4 and 7 months of age, puppies replace their baby teeth with permanent teeth. You should clean your dog's teeth with a dog toothpaste or paste made from baking soda and water once or twice a week. Use a child's toothbrush, gauze pad, or piece of nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger. Veterinarians can clean teeth also as a regular part of your dog's health program.
Some dogs develop periodontal disease when a pocket of infection occurs between the tooth and the gum. This can result in tooth loss and creates a source of infection for the rest of the body. Left untreated, mouth infections can lead to serious problems in the gums and other parts of the body, including the heart. So it's important to give your dog's teeth and mouth special attention.
To check your dog's mouth, talk to him gently, then put your hand over the muzzle and lift up the sides of his mouth. Check that adult teeth are coming in as they should and are not being crowded by baby teeth. Look for soft white matter or hard white, yellow or brown matter. This is plaque or tartar that should be brushed away. Make sure the gums are healthy and the breath is not foul-smelling.
Bad breath is most commonly an indication that a trip to the veterinarian is needed for a dental checkup. Once odor becomes noticeable, it's too late to simply brush the teeth. After a professional cleaning, the teeth and gums may be maintained in a healthy state by brushing teeth regularly, feeding some of the specially formulated dental diets and treats, avoiding table scraps or leaving the food out all day.
Some breath odors may be indicative of more serious, chronic health problems. Foul breath may be caused by liver or intestinal disease. Sweet, fruity breath may be caused by diabetes. Breath that smells of ammonia or urine may be caused by kidney disease. Any time bad breath accompanies other signs of illness such as loss of appetite, vomiting, weight loss, depression, excessive drinking or urinating, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.