Bad Breath in Dogs

 

 

bad breath in dogs

Have you always figured bad breath in dogs was normal, so you just accepted it? 

Well, it turns out it isn’t normal, and it’s time to do something about it!

Causes

Bad breath, or Halitosis, is usually caused by gum or dental disease, and means better care of your dog’s teeth is required. However, it could also signal other problems like metabolic disorder, respiratory problems, gut or internal organ issues, or your dog is simply eating feces.

In older dogs, liver and kidney disease often affect the mouth. Conversely, dental disease can affect the liver and kidneys. The bacteria that grows when tartar builds up around the teeth can break loose and enter the blood bad breath in dogs is not normalstream, lodging in crevices in the kidneys, liver and on valves of the heart.

Red recently started having bad breath, which came at the same time as she had lost a bit of interest in eating. It turns out she had an infection, and we quickly sorted that out. 

Whatever the cause, you need to make an appointment to see your vet, sooner rather than later.

Let’s talk prevention

Just like we keep our teeth and gums healthy with regular brushing and cleaning, the same can be done for our dogs.

Brush your dog’s teeth every day, if possible. If not, even a couple of times a week will help. Toothbrushes come in a variety of sizes, and some even fit on your finger. Don’t forget the doggy toothpaste! A liquid antiplaque solution is available to pour into your dog’s drinking water. Hard chew toys, and dental chews will also help.

Having said all this, if you do notice bad breath, the above measures will simply mask the underlying cause, so please see your vet.

Symptoms

Usually the only symptom is bad breath, but you may notice your dog pawing at his mouth, struggling to eat dry food or cookies, or even drooling. Perhaps your dog seems a bit withdrawn, or not himself. Changes in behaviour may be another indicator.

What can I do?

The only thing you can do is make sure he sees the vet as soon as possible.

When should I see my vet?

If you notice a change in your dog’s breath, it almost always signals a medical condition of some sort, so see your vet immediately. No changes in behaviour, eating or sleeping patterns should ever go unchecked. 

Diagnoses

A routine examination of your dog’s mouth will quickly show evidence of periodontal disease. X rays are often needed to get a more complete picture. If his teeth are fine, and there is no obvious explanation for bad breath, your vet will want other tests to check for possible causes. Those tests can include: blood tests, urine, ultrasound…

Don’t worry, your vet will explain it all.

Treatment

Treatment will, of course, depend on the cause. If it’s strictly periodontal disease, your vet will sedate your dog to give him a good cleaning, and extract any teeth that have to come out. surgery is often the cure for bad breath in dogsIf bad breath is the result of your dog’s diet, a change may be recommended.

If tests revealed another reason, your vet will come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Management

Periodontal disease can be managed with regular checkups, brushing, dental chews, and antiplaque solution – like mouthwash.

Again, if the reason is something else, management will depend on the condition, but can include medication, regular checks and follow up testing.

Recommendation

Don’t waste time looking all over the internet for possible explanations for what’s going on. I purposely kept this article nice and straightforward, so you’ll see the best course of action is a trip to your trusty veterinarian. He’ll get you all the answers you need.

Bad breath in dogs - conclusion

Just as we go for regular dental checkups, so should our dogs. Bad breath in dogs need to be investigated as quickly as possible, because it means something is wrong. 

 


Related Post

Hindy Pearson
Helping people care for their senior dogs
I am a certified dog trainer and pet care consultant, specialising in working with rescue dogs and first time pet parents. I foster and adopt senior and special needs dogs, and advocate for shelter adoption of all animals, particularly older dogs and cats. I am currently working on a spay/neuter program in Spain.

51 Comments

  1. Simone

    I found this site because I was trying to help my sister find answers for her dogs bad breath. She has 2 dogs that are both still quite young (1 and 3 years old). Every time I visit with her I cringe when the dogs run up to me because of the way their breath smells.

    She told me that all dogs have bad breath and it is nothing to be worried about. Do you think I should tell her to take her dogs to the vet? I will share this site with her so she can read the information herself.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Simone, I’m certainly glad you found me. No, bad breath in dogs is not a given, and should definitely be checked out sooner, rather than later. For instance, if her dogs have periodontal disease, the bacteria can damage the liver. Better to be safe! Good luck, I hope her dogs are okay.

      Reply
  2. Marko Starcevic

    Long time ago I had a dog when I use to live with my parents. Now things make more sense when I think about my dogs breath. It was temporary but still very noticeable. Now I know how to deal for the future when I get my own soon.

    Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Marko,

      I appreciate your comment. Certain things we assume are just part of the natural ageing process, but it seems like good news in your dog’s case if it was just temporary. Glad you find the information helpful for the future.

      Reply
  3. Sophie

    It’s an eye-opener to know that bad breath in dogs isn’t always a given. By any chance, would a lack of water in the diet also have something to do with halitosis in dogs, the same way it sometimes does with humans? How much water should your dog lap up in a day, in case?

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Sophie, thanks for your comment. The amount of water a dog should drink can be hard to quantify – it depends on size, age, activity level, but it’s thought around 1 oz of water per lb of weight. Of course drinking too little can lead to dehydration and organ failure which could absolutely affect a dog’s breath. My best advice is, if your dog’s breath is bad, see your vet. Also, if he seems to be drinking a lot of water, and conversely, barely any, see the vet. Any changes in the “normal” always warrants a check up.

      Reply
  4. Rob

    Hi Hindy, I enjoyed your post. I was told that dogs had the cleanest mouths. I guess I will not live by that adage anymore. We just lost a senior dog to kidney failure, she was a good dog.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Rob, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you. I’m so sorry to hear about your dog. That’s always the worst part about sharing our lives with pets isn’t it? I’ve lost several pets to kidney failure, so every time one of my animals starts drinking and peeing too much, I get nervous. I really am sorry for your loss.

      Reply
  5. Raphael

    I have two dogs. They are both hound dogs. We use the dental sticks on them. They do seem to help a bit. Do you recommend any particular brand?

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Raphael, beautiful dogs! I will be writing a post about dental sticks, filled with pros and cons, and what to look for, as well as dental care for dogs. I personally prefer chews that are made from vegetables, or very basic, natural ingredients. I don’t buy the popular ones sold in supermarkets – I find there are too many ingredients that don’t agree with my dogs. My vets have always recommended Virbac CET chews, raw carrots can be given (as long as your vet says they’re okay for your dogs), and any toys they chew on are helpful. The best way to care for your dog’s teeth is regular brushing and dental checks. Hope this helped!!

      Reply
  6. Carlton Gonder

    Hi Hindy,

    Thank you for taking the time to create this article so I can share it with my wife as we have two senior dogs that have some bad breath. We think of them as a part of the family and want to treat them as such. Brushing and taking care of your dog’s dental hygiene is something I never thought was that big of a deal in dogs until after reading this article.

    Yours Truly,
    Carlton

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Carlton, thanks for taking the time to comment. I actually have 4 more posts about this issue coming out this month. Oral hygiene is definitely an overlooked issue in the care of dogs of any age, which is unfortunate because dental disease can cause serious illness, organ damage…. I hope you’ll find other posts useful as well.

      Reply
  7. ches

    This is a really informative post about caring for your elderly dog. I have had many senior pooches to care for which is good in a way, because most of the dogs did live to a ripe old age.
    One of the most important areas of a dog’s health though, is definitely his teeth. If not cared for it can lead to life threatening diseases.
    One of my relative’s dogs had terrible breath but they didn’t want to take him to the vet because of his age. The dog died shortly after. According to the vet, his teeth were the death of him!
    Some dogs seem more prone to dental problems, especially the toy breeds like yorkies. This could have something to do with their diet? Many small breeds are fed a wet diet rather than kibble types.
    Great article. Ches

    Reply
  8. jschicanha

    i have been having my beautiful dog at the village and one day when i went there i have realized that it was having a bad breathing it have not pleased me and with the help i got from this post i found out all the necessary information to help him recover his health

    thanks for the information

    cheers

    Jose

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks for sharing that Jose. I’m so happy the information helped and your dog is doing well.

      Reply
  9. Sherri

    That reminds me. I should have Victor’s teeth checked by a Vet. He might need cleaning. Other than chews, i don’t do much about his teeth though I am going to try earthbound gum and teeth wipes

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      The wipes are a good idea, especially if your dog isn’t fond of you coming at him with a toothbrush!!

      Reply
  10. Golden Daily Scoop

    What a great post, it’s so important to be on top of our dog’s dental health. I’m always in search for some breath fresheners for the Goldens and try to brush their teeth a few times a week.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      That’s great they let you brush their teeth! It’s interesting how many people are unaware of the importance of caring for their pets’ teeth, and the health issues that can arise as a result of poor oral hygiene.

      Reply
  11. Pawesome Cats

    We’ve been trying to encourage tooth-brushing with the cats, so far Charlie is okay with it, Max with tolerate it, but the girls won’t have a bar of it. I’m persevering!

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      So the girls are the troublemakers I see!!

      Reply
  12. The Daily Pip

    We adopted Ruby at about 8 and her teeth were already in pretty bad shape. We do brush almost everyday and she did have a dental last spring.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I love that you adopted a senior. I bet she felt so much better after her cleaning, and you’re lucky she lets you brush her teeth. It’s a battle in this house!

      Reply
  13. Malaika Fernandes

    People very often think it is alright for their dogs to have bad breath. Most are ill informed about how oral hygiene is so important in their dogs and how ignoring it can have severe health repercussions. Thank you for creating awareness.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I have to agree with you Malaika. Most people don’t realise the importance of proper oral hygiene, and how much it can impact overall health.

      Reply
  14. Sweet Purrfections

    It’s so amazing what the mouth can tell you about a dog’s health. My mom keeps her dog’s teeth cleaned on a regular basis.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I believe it’s an often overlooked part of keeping dogs healthy. Your mom’s dog must feel great!

      Reply
  15. Cathy Armato

    Excellent post Hindy, & very thorough! Dental care is so important for dogs.
    Love & biscuits
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thank you Cathy. It is super important, and I’m hoping to make more and more people aware of that.

      Reply
  16. Ruth Epstein

    Great info, Layla chews on bones which keep her teeth white plus I put Tropiclean in her water daily which combats the bad breath and easier than trying to brush her teeth. Her vet is very happy with them so I am a happy Mom

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Thanks Ruth. I’m with you on that one – easier for everyone than brushing! Glad it’s working so well. What kind of bones does Layla chew?

      Reply
  17. Robin

    It is just amazing how much influence a pet’s oral health has on the health of the rest of their body! A dirty mouth leads to so many painful problems. Thank you for the tips!

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      My pleasure! It is amazing, and sadly many people don’t realise the impact poor oral hygiene has on their dog’s health. Not to mention the pain they are often in.

      Reply
  18. Christine Caplan

    Our doxie is predisposed to terrible teeth and periodontal disease. Even after only six month from a cleaning, his breath starts to change so he’s been getting dentals annually for his entire life. I was just at a meeting earlier today and we were talking about a few rescues and how before their dentals their breath told us they needed cleanings! Good pics in your piece.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Bad breath is definitely a good indicator of overall health. We take our dental care seriously, why not our dogs!

      Reply
  19. Lisa Bregant

    Last year my 6 y/o bichon frise Delia’s mouth started smelling terribly. She has never tolerated tooth brushing and had no interest in chews in the past. After a dental exam she had to have several extracted. I still feel horrible that her mouth was in that bad of shape. Since the extractions she will chew dental chews and natural chews. Thankfully, I started my other dog Chewy with teeth brushing as soon as I adopted him at 8 mos. He’s great about it! Thank you for sharing these tips!

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Red’s the same way – she’s a small little dog but you can’t get near her. They definitely feel better after a dental. It’s definitely helpful if you’re able to start young, but starting is the key no matter what age. Hopefully people will start catching on to canine oral hygiene.

      Reply
  20. Katie Allan

    I feel like Gracie’a teeth look bad, but then I see pictures of dogs with these yellowish brown teeth that look awful. It makes Gracie’s light yellow spots look better! I’ve become really serious about her dental care since I’ve started noticing the yellow.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      I’m sure a lot of us could become more serious about dental care. I’m sure Gracie is very happy about that!

      Reply
  21. Beth

    My dogs don’t like to have their teeth brushed. They love their dental chews and don’t mind a water additive, though. One of the dogs (age 7) had a broken tooth and needed to have it pulled, and her breath is so much better now.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      They’ll never turn their noses up at chews will they? I can’t get near my dogs’ mouths to brush their teeth. Red is a small little girl, but when she clamps those jaws shut, forget it. Even my vet can’t do it without help.

      Reply
  22. Tenacious Little Terrier

    We brush Mr. N’s teeth every day and he had a dental last year. Small dogs tend to have bad teeth!

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Mr. N is lucky you’re so on top of his dental care, and the fact that he’s so cooperative doesn’t hurt.

      Reply
  23. Lindsay Pevny

    It’s shocking how dental health affects the whole body! I also brush my dog’s teeth if I notice they’re not smelling fresh, I wonder if they like having a clean mouth.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Hi Lindsay, it is surprising and too few people realise it. I’m assuming they’re as happy as we are!!

      Reply
  24. Kim

    This is something I need to get better at staying on top of

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      You’re not alone!

      Reply
  25. Jana Rade

    Stinky breath in dogs is not normal and always needs to be addressed. Oral disease is the main reason but there also can be foreign bodies, growths, or systemic problems outside the mouth.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Couldn’t agree with you more Jana.

      Reply
  26. Elizabeth Keene

    My dogs (the corgis) have good teeth (so says their vet) at 7 years old and I’m thankful for that. But whenever one of them has significant bad breath, I always worry that something in their mouth has gone awry. So true about chronic bad breath being a bad sign. My little rescue chihuahua is missing almost all her teeth at 10 years old, and I’m sure it could have been prevented. Thankfully, she manages just fine without them.

    Reply
    1. Hindy Pearson (Post author)

      Poor little Chi, sounds like neglect by her previous guardians. Amazing how adaptable they are. It’s great your corgis have such great teeth – I would love to be able to avoid the cost of a dental.

      Reply

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