My dog’s breath stinks – What should i do?

While we all love getting kisses from our dogs, bad breath can make this show of affection unbearable.

Most owners dismiss bad breath as a temporary problem. Unfortunately, it is often an indication of underlying dental issues, which can prove harmful if ignored.

So what is causing your dog’s breath to stink? And how can you put an end to this stinky situation?

Keep reading to find out!

Causes of bad breath in dogs

A dog’s breath is naturally supposed to have a neutral smell. But since bad breath has become so common, owners no longer recognize it as an issue. There are several reasons why your dogs’ breath might stink, most of which require immediate attention to prevent further harm. Here is a list of the most common ones:

1. Poor dental hygiene

Probably the most common and obvious reason for bad breath in dogs is poor dental hygiene. During puppyhood, a dog’s teeth and gums are in pristine condition. But with time, food accumulates on the teeth and encourages the growth of plaque. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar and affects their breath.

Tartar can become a serious problem when it starts eating into the gums, leading to gingivitis and later progressing into periodontal disease if not treated early. Apart from giving your dog’s breath a foul smell, periodontal disease can also lead to tooth loss which can be painful for them. Cavities and openings in the gums can also give bacteria an entryway to your dog’s bloodstream and cause internal infections.

2. Foul eating habits

It’s a fact that dogs can and do eat some pretty disgusting things. Dead and rotting animals, trash, and all kinds of poop are often on the menu, all of which can not only give your dog bad breath but can be bad for their health.

Coprophagia is the fancy term for when a dog eats its stool. This nasty habit can give your dog’s breath a foul odor and lead to major hygiene issues, especially when their mouth comes in contact with your skin.

3. Kidney problems

One of the most common symptoms of kidney disease in dogs is breath with an ammonia or urine smell. This type of breath can happen when the kidneys can’t function properly, allowing blood urea nitrogen levels to rise and giving your dog bad breath. Kidney diseases also cause symptoms like erratic drinking and urination, lethargy, and changes in appetite. 

If you notice any symptoms of kidney disease, it’s best to get your dog checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible. If your dog is left unchecked, the kidney issue can quickly escalate into kidney failure or even death in the worst-case scenario.

4. Diabetes

Dogs develop diabetes just like we do. And a common sign of diabetes in dogs is sweet-smelling breath due to the presence of excessive sugar in the blood, which also increases the sugar content of your dog’s saliva. Since the bacteria in plaque thrives on sugar, it starts rapidly multiplying, leading to accelerated tooth decay.

While diabetes is certainly a serious condition, it’s manageable through medication and dietary changes. Get your dog checked by a vet if you notice sweet-smelling breath and symptoms like increased thirst, urination, appetite, and weight loss in your dog.

5. Liver diseases

Liver disease is another reason that your dog’s breath may not smell so sweet. Sulfur can be a byproduct of a liver not functioning properly. 

Apart from bad breath, liver illnesses can also present symptoms like loss of appetite, vomiting, and pale gums, all of which are cause for you to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How to get rid of bad breath in dogs

No matter the cause of your dog’s bad breath, there are several remedies to make your dog’s breath fresher. No matter the reason, the following techniques will improve your dog’s oral health and help prevent future problems:

1. Take your dog for a dental checkup

When the reason behind your dog’s bad breath is years of tartar and plaque buildup, it’s best to take them for a dental checkup. The veterinarian will examine your dog’s teeth and gums and diagnose issues like periodontal disease and gingivitis. 

After the examination, your vet will decide whether to conduct dental cleaning or tooth removal if necessary. In most mild cases, tartar removal will be all that is needed to make your dog’s breath start smelling fresh again.

2. Get your dog checked for underlying illnesses

When bad breath accompanies symptoms like loss of appetite and change in drinking behavior, there’s a good chance that your dog is suffering from an illness. In that case, it’s best to skip the DIY techniques and take your dog to the vet immediately. 

Kidney diseases, liver issues, and diabetes are all conditions that require immediate veterinary attention and can worsen if left unchecked.

3. Limit access to waste items

If your dog gets bad breath from eating feces and garbage, limit their access to waste items and consult with a qualified trainer. Teach them to recognize basic commands like “drop it” or “leave it,” and use them whenever your dog goes for inappropriate things. 

Waste-eating conditions, or Coprophagia, can have many causes. Have your dog’s diet checked by your veterinarian to rule out any dietary concerns.

4. Regularly brush your dog’s teeth

Not brushing your dog’s teeth may be the root cause of bad breath. In the wild, canines automatically clean their teeth by chewing on bones. However, most dogs don’t have this privilege since they only eat dry or wet food. That’s why it’s the owner’s responsibility to brush their dog’s teeth and maintain their oral hygiene.

If you want your dog always to have fresh breath, make it a habit to brush their teeth daily. The simplest way to do so is to buy a soft-bristle or dog toothbrush and gently clean your dog’s teeth down to the molars, helping to remove plaque and prevent tartar from causing infections and cavities. 

It’s best to start forming this habit during puppyhood as adult dogs can be a little fussy with getting their teeth cleaned. If you manage to make it a part of your dog’s routine early on, teeth brushing will become a great bonding opportunity for you and your dog.

5. Get your dog some chewing toys

Canines clean their teeth in the wild by gnawing on bones, and you can mimic the same effect by providing your dog with chew toys. Not only is chewing helpful in removing plaque from teeth, but it also reduces boredom and has been proven to lower separation anxiety in dogs. 

You can find tons of chewing toys for dogs in various colors, sizes, shapes, and even flavors. Just make sure that the toy is appropriate for your dog’s breed and size. You can experiment with different flavors to see which one your dog likes best. Some chewing toys also have small bristles that gently scrub your dog’s teeth and wedges that control gum swelling in puppies.

If you find it difficult to brush your dog’s teeth, you could invest in a chewing brush instead. A chewing brush is usually a bone-shaped toy with bristles inside that gently clean your dog’s teeth as they gnaw on it. You can fill some of them with toothpaste for minty-fresh breath after chewing.

6. Give your dog dental chews

Dental chews are the equivalent of mint gum for dogs. They contain ingredients like chlorophyll that help freshen your dog’s breath, while the chewing mechanism helps scrub off plaque and tartar from their teeth. However, dental chews are only helpful in temporarily reducing bad breath, and you would still have to brush your dog’s teeth to prevent dental issues in the long term.


Can you use mouthwash for your dog’s bad breath?

Yes, but you should only use mouthwashes made specifically for dogs. Just add the recommended quantity of mouthwash to your dog’s water bowl and make their breath smell minty. NEVER use human mouthwash; many of our mouthwashes contain xylitol, which can be fatal to dogs.

Are rotting teeth painful for dogs?

Yes, rotting teeth can cause pain and make it difficult for your dog to chew food properly. Rotting teeth are usually a sign of periodontal disease, so get your dog checked by a veterinarian on an urgent basis.

Can apple cider vinegar get rid of bad breath in dogs?

Apple cider vinegar may reduce bad breath yes in dogs. The best way to give your dog apple cider vinegar is to add half a teaspoon or less to a full water bowl. Do not give more than one tablespoon per 50 pounds of body weight.

Can bones clean your dog’s teeth?

Yes, bones are an excellent treat for dogs that help scrub off plaque and improve their oral hygiene. But only use raw bones for this purpose as cooked bones can splinter and severely injure your dog’s insides.

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