Bad Breath In Dogs: Causes, Diets & Remedies

Bad Breath In Dogs: Causes, Diets & Remedies

dog with bad breath

Your dog’s bad breath explained

Do you love getting up close and personal to your dog – or is your pet’s smelly breath causing you to keep your distance? Bad breath in dogs is not something to put up with or to be ignored. 

It not only can be fixed but also could be a sign that your pet is not well.

Why does my dog have bad breath? 

If your dog’s breath smells like fish, it could be that he’s suffering from halitosis, also called bad breath. This offensive, sometimes fishy odor coming from your dog’s mouth is a very common complaint among pet owners. 

Sometimes the explanation for your pet’s stinky, even fishy-smelling breath is harmless and as simple as the fact that he or she ate cat poop or something equally unsavory. 

However, more often than not, halitosis is related to a problem in the dog’s mouth. It may be the first noticeable sign of a mouth issue, but uncommon causes unrelated to the mouth need to be ruled out as well. 

Periodontal disease The most common cause of chronic bad breath in dogs

The most common cause for foul breath in dogs is periodontal disease or gum disease, caused by a build-up of bacteria, known as plaque. This is usually due to bad oral hygiene in dogs.

Bacteria in the mouth are attracted to the tooth surface where they form plaque. If not removed, the plaque becomes mineralized and turns into calculus that further irritates and inflames the gums (gingivitis). Eventually, inflammation and infection destroy the supporting bone (periodontitis) and teeth begin to loosen and fall out. A change in odor occurs as bone-destroying bacteria produce hydrogen sulfide and pockets of infection may form.

What’s worse, the bacteria in the mouth can affect other areas of the body leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidney, or anywhere the bloodstream carries them.

What other medical conditions cause bad breath in dogs?

Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease:

  • Diabetes – doggy’s breath may smell sweet because of sugar in the bloodstream, or sour because of increased bacterial growth caused by the sugar. 
  • Kidney failure – in this case, the breath may smell metallic due to a build-up of toxins and waste products not filtered by the malfunctioning kidneys. 

Certain diseases of the gastrointestinal system or respiratory tract, including megaesophagus, nasal infections and sinusitis, may also lead to bad breath. 

Other mouth issues, including broken or infected teeth, tonsillitis, or something stuck in the mouth could also cause bad odor, as could some autoimmune and infectious diseases and cancer.

These causes are much less common, but it’s important to get your vet to exclude them. 

How is halitosis diagnosed?

Yes, you guessed it – by smelling your dog’s breath! If there is a foul smell, your dog suffers from halitosis. If periodontal disease is the cause, your dog may also show other signs such as pawing at their mouths or having problems chewing hard food. 

The best thing to do is to schedule a visit to your veterinarian immediately to identify the cause of the bad breath. This usually starts with an oral examination. If the problem is related to dental health, the vet will recommend a professional dental cleaning. If the cause is still not certain, your vet may take blood tests or radiographs to try to identify the cause.

How to get rid of your dog’s bad breath

If your dog is still in the early stages of periodontal disease, professional teeth cleaning will be prescribed, whereafter daily tooth brushing will help maintain good dental health and serve as an ongoing breath freshener. Professional cleaning is performed under anesthesia, unlike cosmetic cleaning which is not sufficient to prevent or address dental health problems.

 While there are no true “home remedies” for bad breath, there are numerous products that have been shown to help control the development of dental disease. Products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council have been shown to be effective in fighting tartar and/or plaque and include dental chews, water additives, dental diets and dog-specific toothpaste. However, there is no replacement for daily brushing – it is considered by far the best method of prevention. For more serious cases of advanced dental disease or periodontitis, surgery or tooth extraction may be needed. 

If the dog’s breath has been affected by foul-smelling snacks like garbage or animal feces, you will need to find a way to prevent access to such “treats.” 

If the foul breath is the result of other medical conditions as described above, your vet will determine how to treat the condition. 

How do I brush my dog’s teeth? 

Use a finger toothbrush or soft-bristled pet toothbrush available from pet stores and toothpaste for dogs. Note that human toothpaste should not be used as it contains detergents that shouldn't be swallowed. 

You can also use dental wipes – paying particular attention to the area where the tooth meets the gum line. Mouth rinses for dogs could help too, but it’s best to talk to your veterinarian about the right products to use for your pet. 

Can my dog’s diet improve his or her breath?

The best way to address bad breath in dogs is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Ensuring a healthy diet and lifestyle combined with regular toothbrushing and veterinary checkups will keep him in top form. 

It is sometimes suggested that a dry kibble diet would help prevent dental disease, but this is not necessarily true. Most kibble is swallowed whole and not chewed, so it doesn’t have an impact on the teeth. However, diets created with a specific size, shape, and structure can maximize contact with teeth and have been shown to help in the fight against dental disease.

Certain ingredients in your dog’s food could negatively impact your dog’s digestive system, resulting in bad breath due to an imbalanced gut microbiome. A lack of certain nutrients can also cause bad breath. 

Pets should be fed a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs. 

All of Canidae®’s recipes are ultra nutritionally dense and full of only the good stuff − no fillers like corn, wheat, soy or animal byproduct meals. And they’re balanced to perfection with whole-body health in mind, leveraging Canidae’s proprietary HealthPlus Solutions®, the ideal blend of vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and antioxidants.

Find out more about Canidae’s healthy dog food options today.