RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The smell of your dog’s breath could be a sign of bigger health concerns. It could even be a warning of a more dangerous condition that can affect your pet’s life.

Dental disease is more common in dogs than you may think and if left unchecked, it can cause serious illness or even death by creating a fatal infection in your furry friend’s heart. 

“A lot of bacteria in the mouth of an older dog can lead to bacterial endocarditis which is a cardiac issue,” said Dr. John DeJong who is the President-elect of the World Veterinary Association

With over 48-million dog-owning households in this country, that means a lot of dogs are at risk because some owners neglect their pet’s oral health.

“That is why vets stress dentistry because the mouth is a gateway to the body,” said DeJong

At Raleigh’s Oakwood Dog park, we found a lot of happy doggos, including Miko, who gets the right oral care from his owner. 

“He has his own toothbrush, and he gets a dental stick every day,” said Sasha Reynolds.

Consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia asked Dr. DeJong if dental sticks, Greenies and such do any good for a dog’s teeth or are they just a marketing ploy. 

“They actually do a good job,” said DeJong.  

It turns out the more a dog can chew on hard things, the more they prevent plaque buildup on their teeth. 

The owner of Louie the dog brushes his teeth on a regular basis and wants to make sure oral issues won’t cause him health problems. 

“He’s three years old and just now to the point where he needs a cleaning,” said Karen Walters. 

Vets are now recommending probiotics for dogs, saying they are effective in slowing the formation of plaque.  

DeJong explained how the probiotics work. 

“It’s producing hydrogen-peroxide and other factors that inhibit pathogens that cause periodontal disease,” he said. 

If your dog isn’t used to brushing and you want to keep their teeth clean–you can find a half dozen other ways you can do that here

Dogs are really good at hiding dental pain and you may not even realize there’s a problem until it becomes very advanced. 

To keep your dog in good health, make sure you do regular checkups with your vet so your beloved pup can put the bite on dental problems.