Pet Care

Bad Breath

Guilty-looking Pug is bummed out

What Causes Bad Breath?

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is the result of odor-producing bacteria in your dog’s mouth, lungs, kidneys or gastrointestinal tract. It can also be caused by eating garbage, stools and other inappropriate items. Most often, canine bad breath is caused by dental or gum disease, and certain dogs—particularly small ones—are especially prone to plaque and tartar formation. While persistent bad breath often indicates that your dog needs better dental care, it could also be a sign of a more serious medical problem in the mouth, respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract or other organs. In all cases, halitosis is a red flag that should be investigated.

How Can I Determine the Cause of My Dog’s Bad Breath?

Your veterinarian is best suited to pinpoint the cause of the problem. A thorough physical examination and laboratory work, including x-rays, may be recommended. Be ready to answer questions about your dog’s overall health, including diet, elimination habits and general behavior.

When Is It Time To See The Veterinarian?

If your dog’s breath suddenly has an unusual smell, please consult your veterinarian. The following signs can indicate medical problems that need immediate treatment.

  • Unusually sweet or fruity breath could indicate diabetes, particularly if your dog has been drinking and urinating more frequently than usual.
  • Breath that smells like urine can be a sign of kidney disease.
  • An unusually foul odor accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged corneas and/or gums could signal a liver problem.
  • Excessive drooling, especially if blood tinged, or pawing at his or her mouth can accompany bad breath and be a sign of foreign bodies, loose teeth or other serious oral disease.

How Is Bad Breath Treated?

Treatment depends on your veterinarian’s diagnosis. If plaque is the culprit, your dog might require a professional cleaning. If it’s an issue of diet, you might have to change your dog’s regular food. If the cause is gastrointestinal or an abnormality in your dog’s liver, kidneys or lungs, your veterinarian will advise you about the steps you should take to handle the problem.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Having Bad Breath?

Many people assume that bad breath in dogs, especially at a certain age, is a “given”—but that’s not the case. In fact, being proactive about your dog’s oral health starting from puppyhood will not only make your life together more pleasant, it’s smart preventive medicine.

  • Bring your dog in for regular checkups and ask your veterinarian to be sure to monitor the state of your dog’s teeth and breath.
  • Feed your dog a high-quality diet and make sure he doesn’t eat the garbage or his or her stools.
  • Brush your dog’s teeth frequently—every day is ideal. (Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do this and be sure to use toothpaste formulated for dogs as human toothpaste can upset a canine’s stomach.)
  • Provide hard, safe chew toys that allow your dog’s teeth to be cleaned by the natural process of chewing
  • Give your dog well–researched treats formulated to improve breath odor.
  • Discuss home-use oral health products with your veterinarian to see if there’s a type he or she recommends.

Note: Please keep in mind, these products simply mask bad breath and do not treat underlying medical problems.