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Home > Dogs > Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell? 6 Causes & How To Fix It

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell? 6 Causes & How To Fix It

Dog Mouth

Bad breath in dogs is common: it even has its own name – doggy breath. However, while many owners treat canine halitosis as normal, it could be a sign of illness, may indicate a change in diet is needed, or is most likely to point to bad dental hygiene or dental disease. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to freshen your dog’s breath and potentially improve its overall health.divider-dog

The 6 Causes Of Bad Breath In Dogs

It’s easy to recognize when your dog has bad breath. Some odor is common immediately after eating. If your dog’s breath is so malodorous that you can smell his approach before you hear or see him, you should treat this as a trigger to take action.

There are many possible causes of halitosis, including:

1. Periodontal Disease

80% of dogs develop dental disease by the age of three. Many of the symptoms can be difficult to spot: bad breath is one of the more obvious signs. Periodontal disease, which is an infection in the gums and surrounding tissues, and fractured teeth, are the most common canine dental diseases.

The best way to prevent tartar buildup and infections is daily brushing, but if tartar has already started to form, your dog will have to undergo a professional clean, arranged by your vet.

2. Bad Eating Habits

Dogs have some questionable dining habits. Whether it’s eating from the bin, the cat litter, or even feasting on their own feces, it can lead to bad breath. Ensure bin lids are securely closed, keep full bin bags in an outhouse or behind a fence, and put the tempting cat litter tray in a spot your dog can’t reach.

Some dogs will eat their own poop, as well as the poop of other dogs in the house. They might also eat decaying animal remains and drink from puddles. Keep an eye out for any dietary habits that might need training.

West Highland White Terrier dog at home eating
Image Credit: Alejandro rodriguez, Shutterstock

3. A Fishy Diet

Some foods have a more persistent odor. Fish is especially smelly, so if you feed your dog a diet that is heavy in seafood, consider changing to a diet with different meat proteins.

4. Food Sensitivities and Allergies

Food intolerances mean that your dog is unable to digest certain food types and ingredients. Their stomach fails to break down the enzymes and nutrients. It can lead to a host of gastrointestinal symptoms, including abdominal pain and vomiting, and it can also cause bad breath.

Allergies are more serious. Symptoms also tend to be more serious and may include diarrhea and vomiting, as well as increased itching and flaky skin. But if your dog is struggling to break down the food it is allergic to, it could also cause bad breath.

dog rescue sad pixabay
Image Credit: joangonzale, Shutterstock

5. Mouth Infection

Even a seemingly innocuous injury in the mouth can become infected if it is left untreated and uncleaned. Infections are accompanied by a bad smell, and this could be what you’re smelling when your dog tries to give you kisses. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection.

6. Illness

Halitosis can also be caused by illness or disease. These illnesses will require veterinary intervention.

  • Diabetes – If the smell coming from your dog’s mouth has a fruity tinge to it, this could be a sign of diabetes. Other symptoms include increased drinking and urination.
  • Kidney Disease – If their breath smells of urine, this is a potential indication of kidney disease. As well as being serious itself, kidney disease can be a sign of an even greater health problem.
  • Liver Disease – If accompanied by yellow gums and symptoms like vomiting and listlessness, this could mean your four-legged friend has liver disease.

How to Fix Bad Breath – 6 Easy Solutions

Goberian Dog Breed
Image Credit: nokturn, Shutterstock

You should identify the cause of your dog’s bad breath before trying to fix it. Giving minty dental chews could be masking the symptom of a much more serious problem.

However, once the problem has been identified, you may still be left with a stinky dog. Try the following steps to eliminate the bad smell.

1. Brush Teeth

Bad smells can be caused by food and other substances getting stuck in your dog’s mouth. Eventually, they start to decay and smell. Brushing teeth is the most effective way to remove malodorous debris and to help prevent dental disease. Ideally, you should brush your dog’s teeth every day but at least three times a week, to help stave off tartar and plaque.

Buy a finger brush, start when your dog is as young as possible, and stick with a regular brushing pattern, for the best results.

Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Dog Finger Brush, 2-pack
Nylabone Advanced Oral Care Dog Finger Brush, 2-pack
  • Soft rubber bristles
  • Designed to get hard to reach areas
  • Makes cleaning your dog’s teeth easier and less intimidating
View Price on Chewy

2. Change Diet

bulldog eating food_Africa Studio, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

It stands to reason that the food a dog eats dictates the smell that comes out of its mouth. Change from a fish-flavored food to something like chicken or try gradually changing your dog to new food and see if you can combat the problem. Also, the chewing of dry kibble can help remove plaque and tartar, so consider adding some dry food to a daily feeding schedule.

3. Give Dental Treats

In the same way that dry kibble can simulate dental brushing, so too can dental treats. Choose those that are vet-recommended and that aren’t loaded with calories and bad ingredients.

Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats
Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats
  • Ideal for dogs 25-50 lbs
  • Natural dental treats with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients
  • Recommended by vets and accepted by the VOHC
View Price on Chewy

4. Feed Rawhide Bones

You have to take some care with them, but rawhide bones could also help your dog. If your buddy is a ferocious chewer, rawhide bones could lead to bleeding gums and may make the problem worse. A sensible chewer, though, will benefit from the gnawing of the bone. Buy an appropriate size, don’t feed too many, and monitor your dog for signs of bleeding gums.

Busy Bone Rollhide Small/Medium Dog Treats
Busy Bone Rollhide Small/Medium Dog Treats
  • Made for small and medium-sized dogs
  • Provides a playful, chewable challenge
  • No artificial colors or flavors
View Price on Chewy

5. Add Breath Freshener to the Water

Humans can use mouthwash to help keep their breath smelling fresh. While you won’t be able to convince your dog to gargle and spit spearmint mouthwash out, you can get an additive that you put in his water. The ingredients fight plaque, prevent tartar, and improve breath smells.

TropiClean Fresh Breath Dog Water Additive
TropiClean Fresh Breath Dog Water Additive
  • Just add to your pet’s water dish with every refill
  • Odorless and flavorless, so your pet won’t even know it’s there
  • Fights plaque and tartar as well as odor-causing bacteria
View Price on Chewy

6. Home Remedies

Some home remedies might help alleviate the smell from your dog’s mouth:

  • Yogurt – As long as your dog isn’t lactose intolerant, and you carefully check the ingredients, you can add a spoonful of plain yogurt on top of the food. Do not give flavored or sweetened yogurt and ensure that you avoid artificial sweeteners.
  • Parsley – Parsley is an antibacterial and works as a natural breath freshener. Chop some up and put it on top of their food. You could mix it with plain yogurt for a healthy food topper.
  • Ginger Tea – You will have to make it yourself, rather than buying preprepared bags, but a couple of teaspoons of ginger tea drizzled over your dog’s kibble will help shift bad smells. Add a slice or two of natural, organic ginger, to hot water. Let it cool and use one or two teaspoons of the gingery liquid.


Final Thoughts

Dogs have some very questionable habits. They eat out of bins and scavenge the contents of cat litter. They are also unable to brush their teeth themselves, so bits of food and other debris can collect in the mouth, causing bad breath. Halitosis can also be a sign of illnesses, including diabetes, liver and kidney disease. You should ensure that smelly breath isn’t a symptom of a bigger problem, typically by consulting with your dog’s vet, but we have included some methods to help get rid of smells and improve yours and your dog’s life.

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Featured Image Credit: JACLOU-DL, Pixabay

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