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Bad Dog Breath: Solutions and Causes

Veterinarians.org Team

By

Medically reviewed by

Ivana Crnec, DVM

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Is it Normal for Dogs’ Breath to Stink?

Is it Normal for Dogs’ Breath to Stink

No, bad dog breath is not normal. A weird-smelling breath is acceptable in canines, but bad or stinky dog breath is not normal.

The medical term for stinky dog breath is halitosis, which usually indicates poor oral and dental health. However, bad dog breath can also develop due to a more serious underlying health issue.

Therefore, if your dog’s breath smells bad, you need to call the vet and get to the bottom of the issue – determine the underlying cause and provide adequate treatment.

What Causes Bad Dog Breath?

What Causes Bad Dog Breath

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is dental disease. There are different tissues and structures in the dog’s mouth, and if they become diseased, the dog is likely to have bad breath. Severe systemic conditions can also cause bad dog breath.

Here is a detailed review of the causes of bad dog breath:

  • Dental Disease. There are many different forms of dental problems that lead to bad dog breath. Some of the more common dental diseases in dogs include chipped or fractured teeth and tartar buildup. Interestingly, tooth decay in canines is less common than in people.
  • Gum Disease. The most common gum disease in dogs is gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). It usually occurs due to plaque buildup that pressures and irritates the gum line. If left untreated, gingivitis causes bad dog breath and progresses into a severe problem – periodontal disease.
  • Periodontal Disease. Periodontal disease is an advanced form in which the plaque and tartar buildup has pushed the gum line and exposed the roots of the teeth. Periodontal disease causes bad breath in dogs and tooth loss in the long run. Periodontal disease is not reversible. However, it can be stopped with prompt and adequate treatment.
  • Foreign Body in the Mouth. Dogs are notorious for stinking their snout everywhere, and more often than not, they end up with a foreign body in their mouth. If the foreign body (wooden splinter, bone piece, etc.) gets stuck and starts rotting, it will result in bad breath.
  • Oral Tumors. Mouth cancer in dogs is not uncommon, especially among certain breeds (Poodles, Weimaraners, Boxers, Chows, and German Shepherds). Oral tumors are prone to bleeding and infections, resulting in bad dog breath.
  • Dietary Indiscretions. Dogs are notorious for eating non-edible and gross things. Dietary indiscretions make the dog’s breath stink (luckily, this is temporary). For example, if your dog ate its feces, its breath will smell like poop for a couple of hours.
  • Toxin Ingestion. In addition to other signs and symptoms, ingesting a toxin (chemical or plant) will make the dog’s breath smell bad. The ingestion of toxins is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary attention. Some toxins can be deadly; meaning time is of the essence in such situations.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Using low-quality dog foods leads to nutritional deficiency, and according to PetMD, this can disrupt the balance of the bacteria in the dog’s mouth and gut. This is also possible if feeding raw diets, homemade meals, and vegetarian or vegan formulas.
  • Systemic Diseases. Certain conditions and systemic diseases can also trigger bad dog breath. For example, halitosis is expected in dogs with diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and liver disease.
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How Can I Get Rid of My Dog’s Bad Breath?

How can I Get Rid of My Dog’s Bad Breath

You can get rid of your dog’s bad breath by improving its dental health – practicing regular brushing, using water additives, and providing high-quality dog foods, and dental chews, treats, and toys.

Let’s look at how pet owners can get rid of bad dog breath.

  • Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Regularly. Daily teeth brushing is the cornerstone of dental care and oral hygiene. Stay away from human toothpaste – it contains xylitol (which is toxic to dogs). Invest in high-quality and vet-recommended dog toothpaste. We suggest getting the Vets Preferred Advanced Enzymatic Toothpaste.
  • Use a Water Additive. Dog breath fresheners are another excellent option for getting rid of bad breath. Once again, it is essential to use liquid breath fresheners made for dogs. Our favorite pick is Vets Preferred Advanced Oral Care Water Additive. The product is made in the USA, approved by vets, and with a palatable minty flavor.
  • Give Your Dog Dental Chews. Sometimes the solution is simple and comes in the form of delicious dental treats. Dental chews are like regular treats but with unique textures and ingredients. We suggest Dentastix by Pedigree – they come in a variety of flavors and different sizes.
  • Try a Dog Teeth Cleaning Toy. Chewing helps get rid of plaque and tartar, which in turn eliminates bad smells from the dog’s mouth. Luckily, dogs love chewing. You should try the Arm & Hammer for Pets Super Treadz Gorilla Dental Chew Toy. The toy has grooves and is infused with baking soda. Plus, it is durable and available in various sizes.
  • Change the Dog’s Diet. There are many commercial dog foods formulated specifically for oral care. We advise you to get Hill’s Science Diet Dry Dog Food for Oral Care. It is made with chicken and features a clinically proven technology promoting oral health. Plus, the interlocking fiber freshens the dog’s breath with every bite.
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  • Help prevent tartar formation and protect your dog’s teeth and gums and from irreversible gum disease and countless vet visits.
  • Includes xylitol which helps promote good breath, coupled with calcium that strengthens teeth.
  • The antimicrobial dog mouthwash prevents bad breath, halitosis, plaque build-up, and gum diseases.

How do I Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs?

How do I Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs

There are several ways pet parents can prevent bad breath in dogs. Here are some helpful options:

  • Regular Teeth Brushing. Managing your dog’s oral health starts with regular brushing. Brushing helps remove plaque and prevents tartar buildup. You need good toothpaste (made for dogs) and a toothbrush. It is also important to brush the dog’s teeth regularly (VCA Hospitals dog owners need to brush at least three times per week and ideally two times a day).
  • Dental Treats and Diets. Dental chews and treats also contribute to oral hygiene. Many different brands are offering dental treats for dogs. Additionally, there are special dental diets – they have rough-textured and uniquely shaped kibble that helps with plaque and tartar issues. The kibble is also adequately sized to help with dental care.
  • Dog Probiotics. Regular use of dog probiotics can help counter bad smells in the dog’s mouth by keeping the oral microflora balanced. We recommend using the Honest Paws Well Pre+Probiotics Supplement. The supplement has different strains of good bacteria and dietary fiber. Plus, it is chicken-flavored and powdered for easy use.
  • Teeth Scaling. The medical term for dental cleaning is ultrasonic scaling. A licensed vet performs it under general anesthesia with an ultrasonic machine. As a routine procedure, teeth scaling efficiently removes plaque and tartar buildup from the dog’s teeth. The vet will explain how often your dog needs a dental cleaning.
  • Frequent Vet Checkups. Take your dog to the vet regularly for wellness exams. During the exam, the vet will inspect the dog’s mouth and determine if there are any oral health issues. Exams are also the perfect time to detect other health problems that may lead to dental disease and bad breath.

Regular vet checkups and ultrasonic teeth cleanings can be expensive. Therefore, it helps to invest in a good pet insurance plan. OneVet gives 24/7 access to licensed vets and $3.000 in emergency funds for up to 6 pets and no exclusions based on pre-existing conditions, all for $19.99 a month.

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