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Jack Hardy

Dog owners have been warned NOT to brush their pet’s teeth with human toothpaste after research suggested it was being seen as a solution to bad breath. 

The RSPCA said the presence of fluoride in high-street toothpaste brands, along with the occasional use of the artificial sweetener xylitol, could prove toxic to dogs if swallowed.

It came as a survey of 2,000 owners showed nearly 8 per cent had tried to offset their hound’s halitosis by scrubbing their teeth with a human toothbrush and toothpaste.

Small doses of fluoride can give dogs diarrhoea and induce vomiting as it reduces the calcium in the blood and increases potassium levels, Dr Nicola Robinson, head of the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, said.

The presence of xylitol in certain types of toothpaste could prove even more serious – potentially leading to death if left untreated.

Caroline Allen, London veterinary director at the RSPCA, said:
“Not only will pets be less likely to tolerate the foaming and the minty flavour of human toothpaste but there is also a risk to their health from swallowing human toothpaste.

“While there is a potential risk to pets from the ongoing swallowing of fluoride…the inclusion of the artificial sweetener xylitol in toothpastes is a more serious concern as this is much more toxic and products containing this ingredient should not be given to dogs.”

The noxious pant of a pet dog is far from an uncommon scene, with dental disease the second most commonly diagnosed health issue for canines, according to the Kennel Club.

But the survey, commissioned by pet food company Lily’s Kitchen, found dogs were even being fed mints in an effort to improve their breath.

A spokeswoman for the charity advised long-suffering owners to instead brush their pet’s teeth daily with specialist toothpaste.

“While we applaud owners who take responsibility for caring for their dogs teeth, we would also stress that only toothpaste formulated for dogs should ever be used,” the Kennel Club spokeswoman said.

Small doses of fluoride can give dogs diarrhoea and induce vomiting

“Some specialist toothpastes for human-use contain ingredients which are unsafe for pets, for example xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is very poisonous to dogs.”

Chewable treats and bespoke dental diets aimed at preventing plaque hardening were also recommended as alternatives. 

More than half of the dog owners surveyed by OnePoll said they thought bad breath was normal, rather than a symptom of poor dental health. 

Some admitted giving their dog chewing gum when bad breath struck, while others thought a haircut would purify the scent. 

There were also respondents who thought their dog’s unsavoury habits might be the root cause – and sought to keep toilet lids firmly shut to stop them drinking the water.

Only a fifth of dog owners worried about bad dog breath being a sign of a serious health problem, the survey found. 

Rodney Zasman, a leading London veterinary surgeon, said: “A lot of dog owners aren’t aware of how important it is to look after their dog’s dental health.

“Poor care of dogs’ dental hygiene can result in (complications) such as dental plaque, gum disease, tooth abscesses and difficulty eating.

”Bacteria can spread from the teeth and gums causing damage to the kidneys, liver and the heart. Painful and extensive dental surgery and treatment may be needed to cure this.