Dog Mouthwash – How to Keep Your Pet’s Breath Fresh

dog mouthwash

Dog Mouthwash – It’s the product we all hope our dogs will never need! One of the most cherished yet feared features of dogs is their tongue. They give sweet kisses of appreciation, but sometimes their breath smells terrible.

Surprisingly, not all pet parents take the steps required to tidy up their pooch’s mouth. By implementing a dental health routine with your dog, you can reduce and even eliminate his bad breath!

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Bad Breath

Unfortunately, bad breath may be an early warning sign of periodontal disease in dogs. Bad breath is usually caused by the bacteria associated with plaque, which can lead to gingivitis.

A 2011 study tested six dogs, three with gingivitis and three without, to try and identify the bacteria that are associated with gingivitis. They swabbed each dog’s mouth and tested the swabs. After identifying the many varieties on the swabs using gene sequencing, they compared their findings between the control and the gingivitis group. They observed that there are many different types of bacteria in a dog’s mouth, and because of this diversity they could not narrow down the exact strain that leads to plaque.

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Most pet owners do not realize that periodontal disease is not only the most common condition in pets but that it can begin as early as three years of age. The most unfortunate part of this is that periodontal disease is completely preventable. It just requires pet parents to take that extra step to maintain their pet’s dental health.

Many different conditions are associated with periodontal diseases, such as tooth loss and organ damage. In most cases, if the plaque turns into tartar, or calculus buildup, anesthetized dental cleaning is required. Periodontal disease prevention starts at home. Check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly. Watch his behavior, if he is avoiding eating or he is bleeding from his mouth, take him to your local veterinarian.

Tartar vs. Plaque

With all these dentistry words flying around, you may be wondering what the difference is between tartar, also called calculus and plaque. Plaque is a substance caused by food residue. It then sticks to teeth like a film, and the bacteria live on this film. This is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque is easily removed by brushing the teeth or chewing hard toys.

When the bacteria on the plaque dies, calcium in the saliva hardens it and turns it into tartar, also known as calculus. Tartar is a hard and resilient substance, usually requiring a professional cleaning to remove. If no action is taken when the plaque becomes tartar, it will progress across the teeth, and even below the gumline.

This is when gingivitis occurs. The gums can become infected and destroyed because of the bacteria. Eventually, this will lead to tooth loss. The course of this disease is painful and can be easily avoided.

Is Mouthwash Bad for Dogs?

If you have not heard of dog mouthwash before, you may be wondering if it is safe for dogs. The short answer is yes! Dog mouthwash is a tool that you can use to keep your dog’s dental health in tip-top shape. Bear in mind that dog mouthwash is very different from the mouthwash you use. Dog mouthwash is specially formulated for dogs so that it is safe to ingest.

That said, not all dog mouthwashes are the same. Some have different methods of application, different doses, and different frequencies for use. If you are trying to find the perfect mouthwash choice for your dog, make sure you read the instructions for each brand you try.

Can Dogs Have Mouthwash?

You may be asking, “Can I give my dog mouthwash?” Yes! Just make sure it is a dog-specific mouthwash. Dogs cannot have the same kind of mouthwash you use.

All the varieties of dog mouthwash available are ingestible. Since your pooch cannot swish and spit like you can, these products are created so that they are safe to ingest in their designated doses. There are many varieties of specially formulated dog mouthwash available, and they come in a plethora of flavors. If you have a picky pup, you may have to try a few to see exactly which kind your pooch is partial to.

Do not be afraid to experiment, finding the best fit for your dog is a fun and rewarding experience. Plus it is a great way to spice up your daily routine with your dog!

Can Dogs Drink Mouthwash?

Each brand has a different application style. Some are water additives, some are sprays, some are gels, and some are rinses. For the water additive style, you add it directly to water. In this case, the dog is literally drinking the mouthwash.

For the other direct application varieties, it is inevitable that a dog will swallow some of the product. If you follow the dosage directions, you should not have to worry about your dog consuming mouthwash. Make sure to keep the dog mouthwash out of reach of your dog. Place it high up somewhere out of your dog’s reach to avoid any accidents or overdoses.

Best Dog Mouthwash

With so many options of dog mouthwash available, it can be hard to decide which one to buy for your dog. A good place to begin is to do research on the different types and see what the reviews say. To start, go for a highly reviewed and relatively cheap option. Keep an eye out for flavor trends and try to pick a popular one.

The cheap, common flavor factors are important because if your dog does not like that option, whether it be because of the application method or taste, you know where to go next. For example, one very common variety of dog mouthwash is a water additive in mint flavor.

Paws and Pals* make one such mouthwash.

This one gets great reviews, it could be worth a try.

Another similar mouthwash is by Emmy’s Best*.

See what your dog thinks!

Vets Preferred Dog Health Care* make another similar product.

There are lots of great reviews for this one. If you find that your dog refuses to drink his water, it may be because of the mint flavor. Because they can tell their water is somehow different. At this point you know to either avoid that flavor in the future or to try a different application type next time.

If your dog tries it once and you find yourself stuck with an almost full bottle of dog mouthwash, consider offering it to friends, or even a local rescue. Sometimes rescues will take open products. Be sure to call ahead and ask.

Types of Dog Mouthwash Application

On your dog mouthwash research journey, you will find tons of different application types. It can be hard to choose what may work for your dog. To start, consider your dog’s temperament. Is he relaxed or hyper? Does he sit still, or is he constantly moving?

Some of the application methods available require some level of cooperation, where others are not as involved. For example, the water additive variety we talked about earlier would be good for a dog who never sits still. Whereas the spray kind would be good for a dog with a normal energy level.

The two kinds that would require a low energy or very relaxed temperament would be the gel or foam applications. These types require direct application on the teeth, and the application is not as quick as the spray kind.

dog mouthwash

Homemade Dog Mouthwash

There are a ton of dog mouthwash recipes on the internet. It can be tempting to try and create some out of readily available and cheap ingredients you have in your kitchen. Always be sure to consult your veterinarian before you concoct and apply any of these potentially dubious recipes on your beloved dog.

Also keep in mind that a homemade version will most likely not have the required contents to combat plaque, tartar, and bacteria. For example, one common ingredient in dog mouthwash is chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that has been shown to combat bacterial growth and plaque which can lead to gingivitis.

Chlorhexidine Mouthwash for Dogs

As mentioned above, chlorhexidine is a frequently utilized antiseptic in mouthwash. Though it is quite a mouthful, chlorhexidine is an effective and safe disinfectant. The reason that this compound is commonly used is due to the way it affects bacteria. Its positive charge destroys a bacteria cell’s negatively charged cell membrane. After this membrane is destroyed, the structure of the cell is compromised. The chlorhexidine can then enter the cell and cause the cell to die. Killing oral bacteria helps get rid of bad breath and discourages bacterial plaque buildup.

One 1973 study observed the long-term effects of a consistent application of chlorhexidine. A group of twenty beagles was split into control and chlorhexidine groups. Both groups were given a diet that causes soft plaque formation for 12 months. During this, a solution of chlorhexidine was applied twice daily, and the results were intermittently recorded.

They observed that for the first six months the solution prevented plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. However, after six months gingivitis appeared in the chlorhexidine group as well, though at a much-reduced potency when compared to the control group.

Dog Dental Health

As many of these conditions are avoidable, it is good to understand what steps you can take as a pet parent to prevent the development of these illnesses. Start early and start at home.

One of the easiest ways to fight plaque, depending on your pooch’s temperament, is to brush their teeth. There are a variety of tools available to help make this process easy, from finger toothbrushes, special dog toothbrushes, and even meat-flavored toothpaste. Ideally, your dog’s teeth should be brushed daily, but even every other day will help fight plaque!

Another step you can take is to use a chlorhexidine-based dog mouthwash. As discussed above, this antiseptic is effective at fighting bacteria and plaque. Chew toys are the laziest, simplest way to help fight plaque and tartar — all your dog has to do is chew! Dental-cleaning-specific diets and rawhides help reduce tartar. Avoid using hooves or natural bones, as these are too hard and will just cause gum damage.

A Routine for You and Your Pup

Your dog’s mouth health starts with you. Start exploring different options with your pup today to find what works for your lifestyle. If you have a younger dog, you may be able to catch the plaque before it starts. Pick up a dog specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Get your dog used to you brushing her teeth, once she is comfortable with the brush, start using the toothpaste.

Buy a dog mouthwash for your dog. If it is a water additive variety, make sure they are drinking it. Consider getting chew toys for them as well, both methods are passive and easy ways to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

If you are worried about your dog’s teeth, consider putting them on a dental diet kibble so that the plaque is being headed off on all fronts.


Dog mouthwash is a good place to start when it comes to your dog’s dental hygiene, but it should not be the only step you take to better your pup’s teeth. If you are unsure where to start, or do not know what dog mouthwash to choose, bring your dog to your veterinarian. A dental examination by your veterinarian will indicate how good or bad your dog’s oral health is. It is good to have a starting point so that you know how much work you must put in.

Have you tried dog mouthwash before? Tell us about your pup’s dental health routine in the comments down below!

Dog Mouthwash – How to Keep Your Pet’s Breath Fresh

Affiliate link disclosure: Links in this article marked with an * are affiliate links, and we may receive a small commission if you purchase these products. However, we selected them for inclusion independently, and all of the views expressed in this article are our own.


PubChem, Chlorhexidine.

Hamp, S.E. et al. (1973). Long term effect of chlorhexidine on developing gingivitis in the Beagle dog. Journal of Periodontal Research.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

Moshkelani, S. et al. (2014). Comparison of the antibacterial, antiplaque, and anti-gingivitis activity of herbal mouthwash with chlorhexidine in dog. Journal of Herbal Drugs.

Riggio, M.P. et al. (2011). Molecular identification of bacteria associated with canine periodontal disease. Veterinary Microbiology.

Periodontal Disease, American Veterinary Dental College.

Pet Dental Care, American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats, American Animal Hospital Association.

Home Care for Dogs, American Veterinary Dental College.

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website