Why Has My Dog Got Bad Breath?

Dogs naturally don’t have the most fragrant breath in the world. While puppy breath may have a sweet scent to it, this is often replaced by a more pungent smell as your dog becomes an adult and starts to develop more bacteria in their mouth. 

If your dog’s breath has started to smell unbearably bad to the point that your eyes water and you want to retch when they go to lick your face, then there’s clearly something wrong. Dog breath tends to have a mild odor to it, but it shouldn’t be smelly to the point that you cannot stand it.

Why Has My Dog Got Bad Breath?

Below are some of the possible causes of bad doggy breath and what you can do to treat and prevent it. 

What causes bad breath in dogs?

There are a few factors that can cause a dog to develop bad breath. These include:

Smelly foods

An obvious cause of bad breath could be the foods that you’re giving to your dog. Fishy foods can often cause dogs to develop fishy breath. Sugary treats could also be to blame as they could be causing tooth decay, which leads onto the next cause…

Dental problems

This is the most common reason for bad breath in dogs. A variety of dental problems can result in pongy panting. This could include tooth decay, gum disease, oral infections or possibly even mouth cancer. Often this smell is caused by high levels of bacteria in the mouth.

Gut problems

If your dog has a gut infection or blockage, a side effect of this could be bad breath. This could result in a sour or even feces-like smell. Such a condition may be accompanied by digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea, or it could be accompanied by vomiting and lack of appetite. 

Other health problems

Other health problems may have a knock on effect on your dog’s breath. Fishy smells can sometimes be a sign of kidney problems, while chemical smells can sometimes be a sign of diabetes. Liver problems may also affect your dog’s breath, potentially giving it an unpleasant musty odor. 

When to show concern

Any strong or unusual smells could be a valid enough reason to see a vet. However, you should particularly consider seeking treatment if you notice any of the following symptoms.

Signs of tooth decay

If there are visible signs of tooth decay in your dog’s mouth, you may want to seek treatment from a vet. Tooth decay is likely to be painful for your dog. If ignored, any infection could spread. Such infections can spread all around the body. 

Blood in saliva

This is a sign that your dog has a mouth injury or gum disease – and could be linked to the bad breath. You may notice blood on their mouth or on a toy or ball. A vet may be able to diagnose and treat this issue.

Pawing of the mouth

If your dog is constantly pawing its mouth, a toothache may be the cause. In some cases, food such as bones or gristle can also get stuck in the teeth. Your dog may be trying to force this food free. If left in your dog’s mouth, this food debris could lead to an infection. 

Loss of appetite

If your dog has lost its appetite, it’s likely to be a health problem. Tooth decay could be the cause – eating food could be causing pain. Alternatively, it could be a gut problem that is making your dog nauseous and therefore unwilling to eat. 

Diarrhea, constipation or vomiting

If your dog shows any of these signs, then it’s likely they’ve got some kind of gut issue going on. It could be a mild intolerance to something they’ve eaten, but if it’s also accompanied by bad breath, there are chances it could be a more serious gut infection or blockage that needs to be treated. 

Excessive thirst and urination

This is a classic symptom of diabetes. If your dog’s breath has an odd chemical smell like nail varnish and is drinking/urinating a lot, you may want to see a vet about a possible diabetes diagnosis. 

Treating/preventing bad breath in dogs

Bad breath in dogs can usually be treated. There are also many basic ways in which you can prevent it. A few treatments and prevention methods are listed below:

Brush your dog’s teeth

A lot of owners don’t realize this, but dogs need to have their teeth brushed just like humans. This helps to eliminate plaque and prevent tooth decay and gum disease. There are specialist toothbrushes that you can buy for dogs, as well as specialist toothpaste. You should never brush your dog’s teeth with fluoride toothpaste, as this is toxic to dogs.

It’s never too late to develop a dental routine for your dog. While brushing may not get rid of current decay, it could prevent more future dental problems from occurring. 

Take them for health check ups

Regular check-ups with a vet can help to spot signs of health problems early. This could include dental problems, gut problems and diabetes. You may even be able to visit a dog dentist for regular cleans. Such check-ups may cost money, but they could prevent huge treatment costs in the future. 

If your dog already has bad breath and you’re concerned that there may be other problems, you should see a vet for treatment options. A vet may be able to prescribe antibiotics for infections, carry out dentistry/surgery or recommend other treatment options based on the diagnosis. 

Feed them the right foods

It’s important that your dog is eating a nutritious diet. Too many sugary snacks could cause tooth decay and other issues to develop. Try to stick to dog-specific foods and integrate healthy dental chew snacks into their diet to help clean their teeth. A low carb dog food might be worth looking into! You should also be wary of foods that could be potentially toxic or that could cause blockages (these will cause gut problems that could cause bad breath). 

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Married for eons, mom of 10, Nonnie to 26 with a great grand coming soon, to add to the mix. Avid reader and photo taker, scrapbook queen and jewelry maker. Collector of dishes, planners and pens. Lover of animals, chocolate and spends…long hours soaking in the spa tub (with a fully charged tablet, diet soda, and grub). She’s worn lots of hats, tossed most to the wind, and doesn’t mind starting all over again. Every day is a new adventure…come along for the ride!

Libby has 4588 posts and counting. See all posts by Libby

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