Every February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Most veterinarians offer discounts on check-ups and cleanings during this time. I try to get my pets into the doctor for their annual visits during this time in case they need to get their teeth cleaned. According to the American Veterinarian Medical Association, periodontal disease is the most common dental problem in dogs and cats (Pet Dental Care, 2018).
By the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken.
As with all of God’s creatures, problems with your dog’s teeth don’t remain in just your mouth. Periodontal disease affects the kidney, liver, and heart muscle. Hopefully you can see why early detection and proper dental care are important.
Weekly Dental Care
Of course, the first line of defense for dental care is regular removal of plaque. Plaque, if left on the teeth, over time becomes tartar. Tartar that can be seen above the gum line can be easily removed, but “plaque and tartar below the gum-line is damaging and sets the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jaw bone” (Pet Dental Care, 2018). So, brushing your pet’s teeth is a weekly regimen that will help to prevent plaque and tartar build up (Brushing, 2018). However, just like you and me, it’s important for your pet to receive regular dental check-ups because brushing does not remove all of the bacteria that can build up in the mouth.
A Word of Caution
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of using essential oils as an adjunct treatment in the prevention of dental disease, as I discussed in the blogs about Training a Dog Using Essential Oils and The Toxicity of Essential Oils and Cats, there are some cautions to be considered when using Aromatherapy around or on your pets.
- Do NOT use essential oils on your cats. Cats do not have the correct enzymes in their livers to process the constituents and can kill them. Yes, I said kill. There are options for your kitty, but they are not essential oils
- DO NOT use essential oils on dogs younger than 10 weeks old; their livers need to be mature enough to process medications; this includes the constituents found in essential oils
- ALWAYS DILUTE your blends- start with 25% of the human dose. Dilute even further for small, elderly, or ill dogs
- ALWAYS use the highest quality essential oils
- ALWAYS use high quality base oils and natural soaps
- DO NOT use essential oils in or near the eyes, nose, genitalia, or anus
- ALWAYS introduce essential oils gradually (Bell, 2012)
Fresh Breath For Your Dog
Last semester, I had to do a research project. I chose to research using essential oils as an adjunct treatment in the treatment of human dental disease. Though my research did not conclusively show that essential oils are beneficial, they did not show that they were NOT. There are many essential oils that are antibacterial and antimicrobial. There was such a diversity of oils that were tested by a variety of different companies and students, there was no way to effectively compare the benefits in regards to dental care.
Throughout history, and even today, there are several well-known plants that help to fight bad breath; cardamom, coriander, and peppermint are three of the most recognized. Each of these oils is beneficial for the digestive system also.
- Cardamom- used by the ancient Egyptians to clean their teeth and by the romans as a digestive aid; it is native to India. It is antibacterial and antimicrobial (Petersen, 2016)
- Coriander- is a popular spice used to aid digestion issues like indigestion and loss of appetite. In Morocco it is considered a diuretic. It is a common flavoring agent for pharmaceuticals. It is antimicrobial (Petersen, 2016)
- Peppermint- probably the most popular digestive aid in America, is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus, the oldest surviving medical text; it was used by the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans to flavor sauces and wine. It was mentioned in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias in the 13th century. It is antibacterial and antimicrobial (Petersen, 2016)
In Kristen Leigh Bell’s book, Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals, she gives some simple formulas, using these three essential oils to help keep your dog’s breath fresh. She gives the formula for a spray, teeth cleaning wipes, and drops. I prefer to use the drops as most dogs do NOT like having something sprayed into their mouths. Also, since it is recommended to keep essential oils away from a dog’s nose, if you’re not adept at using a spray, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get some in his nose.
Following is Bell’s recipe for the fresh breath drops. It is best to begin a regimen of drops following a professional cleaning as prevention is key.
1/2 oz Sweet Almond Oil
6 drops Cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum)
4 drops Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
6 drops Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Blend all ingredients in an amber or cobalt glass bottle. Using a dropper or pipette, place 1-3 drops (depending on the size of the dog. ie: 1= chihuahua, 2= shepherd sized, 3= Irish wolf hound) in the dog’s mouth or even add it to the toothpaste you use when you brush. Do not be alarmed if your dog begins to smack his lips or salivate as you are using oils that are beneficial for the digestive system. Remember digestion starts in the mouth. DO NOT administer more than once each week.
Using these breath drops in addition to weekly brushing should help to keep your dog’s mouth fresh and clean.
It is important to view your dog in a holistic light; meaning examining the entire animal, not just one area. Your dog’s breath may be bad simply because he has bad teeth. We all know people who do everything they can, but their teeth, due to genetics, just continue to deteriorate. Your dog’s breath may be bad because you are not feeding him high quality food. Our diet affects our breath as well. Your dog’s breath may be bad because something is going on internally and manifesting in his mouth. This is why a yearly exam is so valuable. So, take a look at everything.
- Make sure you’re feeding a high quality diet. A dog’s system works best on a raw diet. Check out this post on the BARF plan
- Get your dog into the vet each year for a check-up
- Make sure you keep fresh water out at all times
Our pets are family. ALWAYS seek the advice of a Registered Aromatherapist when looking to purchase high quality essential oils for your pets, for assistance blending, for help with dilution, etc.
Aromatherapy has not been evaluated by the FDA. Any information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is not intended to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified licensed medical provider. Any recommendations are for educational purposes only and are believed to be effective. However, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effectiveness of this information can be given nor liability taken.
Bell, K. L. (2012). Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals. Scotland, UK: Findhorn Press.
Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/dog_care/general_health/brushing_your_dogs_teeth.aspx
The Oldest MedicalBbooks in the World. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.wrf.org/ancient-medicine/oldest-medical-books.php
Pet Dental Care. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/Pet-Dental-Care.aspx
Petersen, D. (2016). Aromatherapy Materia Medica: Essential Oil Monographs. Portland, Oregon: American College of Healthcare Sciences.