Bad breath is something that can occur in all mammals, including dogs. It can be short-lived, and the dog has bad breath all of a sudden, because they have eaten something unpleasant, or it can persist and become an ongoing problem.
The simplest way to avoid dog bad breath becoming a problem is to feed a well-balanced diet and keep a good oral hygiene routine. If a dog is eating well and appears to have clean, healthy teeth and gums but still the dog has bad breath, they should go to the vet. There may be oral health issues that the owner cannot spot, such as cavities below the gum line or gum infection. Untreated gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) can, if not dealt with, let bacteria into the bloodstream and then the organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. There they may set up infections that can interfere with organ function, potentially causing serious issues like heart disease.
Some diseases have bad breath as a symptom, such as diabetes or kidney disease. All of these illnesses require veterinary treatment. If you realise ‘my dog has bad breath’ and can see no obvious cause, as the first step a vet should rule out illness.
Here we look at how to tell what might cause your dog to have bad breath and ideas on how to get rid of dog bad breath.
Signs and symptoms of bad breath in dogs
The most obvious symptom is a smell coming from the mouth. This can be fruity and sweet, unpleasant, or foul.
A healthy mouth has clean teeth that are not broken or cracked. The gum lines appear smooth and even, and the gums will be a pink colour. When looking in an unhealthy mouth, the teeth may have a brown covering of plaque and tartar, and the gums red and inflamed.
A dog with gum disease may leave traces of blood on chew toys or have blood streaks in their saliva.
A dog with a painful mouth may be reluctant to eat, particularly if fed hard kibble. They may paw at their mouth. They may drool more than usual and be reluctant to have their mouth examined.
Sweet or fruity smelling breath, together with increased drinking and urination, breath that smells like urine, or foul breath with vomiting, not eating and yellowing gums all indicate possible serious health conditions, and a vet should be consulted.
What causes bad breath in dogs?
The most common causes of bad breath in dogs are poor oral hygiene and periodontal disease. Teeth get a covering of plaque and tartar if not kept clean. This allows bacteria to develop which cause bad breath. If this is not removed, the gums become red and inflamed and start to be pushed away from the teeth. More space is created for bacteria to attack, leading to cavities, infections, tissue destruction and tooth loss. Pus pockets can form, and the dog’s breath will be very, very bad. Smaller dogs seem to be more prone to these problems, as their teeth are smaller and close together, and can have a higher build-up of plaque and tartar.
Bad breath may follow the dog eating something nasty. This could be a rubbish bin raid, dead animal or faeces. Particularly adept at causing bad breath when eaten are the faeces of cats and dogs – from another dog or even their own. This is coprophagia and is something many dog owners battle at some point with their dogs. Other problem items a dog can eat include unsuitable bones and sticks, which can lodge in the mouth or teeth. Some toxic substances like antifreeze or rodenticides can give a noticeable taint to breath if consumed. If you are unsure what your dog may have eaten, a vet visit is the safest option.
A number of serious diseases can have bad breath as a symptom, which is why a vet should examine a dog with bad breath but no obvious cause. Among the issues bad breath can herald are diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease. All of these very serious conditions require veterinary treatment.
Also requiring urgent treatment if the cause of dog bad breath, cancer can occur as oral tumours. These often grow too fast for blood vessels to keep up, meaning areas of tissue die. These dead areas provide a home for bacteria, causing a foul odour. Any unusual lumps and bumps in the mouth need checking by a vet.
The food a dog eats can affect their breath. Different food types have varying pros and cons when it comes to keeping mouths and teeth healthy. Poor quality foods can also have a detrimental effect on the dog's general health, which can lead to problems. If food is not digested properly, bad breath can occur.
Bad breath in dogs treatment
If you are not sure what is causing your dog’s bad breath or suspect one of the possible health-related causes, then a vet check-up is the first part of a dog bad breath cure. Once any underlying medical cause is diagnosed and being treated, your vet can advise on a dog bad breath treatment plan. An annual vet dental check is a good idea, as they can clean your dog’s teeth if needed, and spot any oral health problems early.
The simplest dog bad breath remedy for the most common causes of bad breath is to clean your dog’s teeth. Many pet stores carry finger brushes designed for this, and flavoured toothpastes are available to make the idea more palatable to dogs. Never use human toothpaste, as some ingredients are not suitable for dogs. Making regular brushing part of the routine, preferably from a puppy, reduces the likelihood of periodontal disease. Suitable chew toys and chew treats will help remove plaque and tartar from the teeth. If you are unsure which chews are safe, your vet will be able to recommend some options. Carrot and apple are great natural low-calorie choices.
If your dog likes snacking on nasty things like dead animals, rubbish and faeces, keep a close watch when temptation is near so they cannot access anything you do not want them eating. This also stops them from picking up something that could lodge in their mouth or teeth. One bad breath home remedy for a dog having a temporary breath issue is to add chopped mint or parsley to their food, as these plants are natural breath fresheners.
The best method of how to cure bad dog breath is to do everything possible to prevent it from occurring. Keeping your dog in good overall health will help prevent bad breath. Making sure that they receive plenty of appropriate exercise for their condition, size and age helps keep the whole dog in good shape. Feeding an excellent species appropriate diet made with top quality ingredients keeps the digestive system working well and the dog’s body in healthy condition. All Pure dog food recipes use human grade ingredients to create a tasty, highly digestible and nutritionally balanced meal for your dog.
Other Dog's Stories
To discover how Pure fed dogs have fared with bad breath since making the switch, check the Oral Health page.