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10 Reasons Why Your Dog’s Breath Smells So Bad

  • 8 min read

We love cuddles and kisses from our dogs. But this joy can be dampened when their breath stinks! While it’s normal for a dog to have a certain degree of bad breath, excessively foul-smelling breath can be a sign of a much bigger problem.

In this article, we'll delve into the top 10 reasons why your dog’s breath smells so bad and what you should be doing in such situations. We’ll also share some tips and tricks that’ll help you prevent bad breaths and promote better oral health in your canine companion.

10 Reasons for Bad Breath in Dogs

Below we have discussed the 10 most common reasons that can lead to bad breath in dogs:

1. Digestive Issues

Digestive issues in dogs can lead to the production of gasses, which are often released through the mouth, similar to burping, resulting in bad breath. In such cases, you might also notice signs like vomiting, diarrhea, changes in appetite, or lethargy.

How can you address this?

If you’ve recently made a sudden change in your dog’s diet, then the new food addition could be the culprit behind their digestive issues and bad breath. If there aren’t any allergy issues, most of these problems will go away once they have adjusted to their new diet. You can also simply stop feeding that food or revert to their old diet. 

Otherwise, you can either try incorporating fiber-rich food into their diet to help relieve gas and promote healthy digestion or consult with a vet to find the cause of your dog’s digestive issues.

2. Periodontal Disease

Bad oral hygiene and periodontal disease are a leading cause of bad breath in dogs. They are caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which results in the overgrowth of bad bacteria and a foul smell.

How can you address this?

Most dogs will develop some tartar or plaque at some point in their life. However, this situation can be avoided by regular brushing and appropriate chew toys.

But if you do suspect your dog has tartar or plaque buildup, you should schedule a professional cleaning appointment with a veterinarian to address this issue promptly. When left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to more severe health problems than just bad breath.

3. Dietary Habits

Many dogs will eat just about anything, even things that we might find unappetizing or even gross. This includes garbage, poop, rotting food, and other unpleasant items. While this habit can be a normal part of their behavior, it can lead to health issues such as gastrointestinal upset or infections and even bad breath.

How can you address this?

It’s generally recommended to always keep an eye on what your dog is eating and train them to respond to commands like "leave it" or "drop it" to immediately prevent them from consuming inappropriate items.

But if you suspect your dog has eaten something bad which has led to bad breath, then you can take them to a vet. They will help ensure that whatever your dog ate wasn’t toxic and won’t experience any undesirable side effects.

4. Decomposing Food Particles 

Since we don’t brush our dog’s teeth after every meal, there’s a chance that they can have food particles stuck between their teeth. After a few days, when this food particle starts decomposing, it can emit a bad odor in their mouth.

This situation can also occur with other non-food items like garbage or a piece of grass that they ate out of curiosity. 

How can you address this?

Regardless of what your dog ate, you can address this issue by brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and giving them appropriate chew toys. You can also incorporate water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber, celery, and watermelon to promote saliva production, which helps rinse away food particles from their mouth.

5. Diabetes

Untreated or poorly managed diabetes can cause bad breath in dogs. It happens when the body starts breaking down fat in the absence of sufficient glucose for energy. This process produces a byproduct called ketones that leaves a distinctive sweet or fruity odor on a dog's breath.

How can you address this?

In case you smell a sweet or fruity odor on your dog's breath, you should consult with a veterinarian to diagnose and manage their diabetes.

6. Kidney Disease

When a dog’s kidneys aren’t working properly, a buildup of toxins and waste products occurs in their bloodstream. These toxins often emit an ammonia-like odor which often resembles the smell of urine. Therefore, such odor is considered an early sign of kidney dysfunction or disease.

How can you address this?

If you smell ammonia or urine-like smell on your dog's breath, take them to a vet for proper diagnosis and treatment of their kidney problems.

7. Liver Disease

Much like kidney disease, liver disease can also result in bad breath, as improper functioning of this organ results in toxins building up in the bloodstream. However, this situation is accompanied by many other signs like yellowing of the skin or eyes, also known as jaundice.

How can you address this?

Signs of liver disease can vary depending on different factors. Therefore, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your dog’s bad breath is caused due to liver disease.

8. Nutritional Imbalances

Certain nutritional deficiencies or nutritional imbalances can impact your dog’s health and immune system, making them more susceptible to oral infections and bacterial overgrowth, which can lead to bad breath.

How can you address this?

With the help of a veterinarian or pet nutritionist, start by evaluating your dog’s diet to figure out any nutritional deficiencies. Depending on the situation, you might have to provide them with additional foods such as fruits and veggies or add a commercial supplement to their meal.

9. Nasal Problems

Nasal problems like sinusitis or rhinitis lead to a buildup of mucus, which can provide a breeding ground for bacteria that affect your dog’s breath. Additionally, the inflammation and infection associated with nasal issues can contribute to changes in the odor of a dog's breath.

How can you address this?

In case of nasal problems like sinusitis or rhinitis, you should seek veterinary help for medications or treatments to alleviate discomfort.

10. Oral Tumors

Oral tumors are a much more serious and life-threatening problem that more commonly affects older dogs. They develop in the mouth and can lead to various symptoms, including difficulty eating, drooling, bleeding, and bad breath.

How can you address this?

Oral tumors are a serious health complication that might require surgical removal, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on their size and location. Thus, it’s essential to provide your dog with proper veterinary attention in such situations.

How to Treat Bad Breath in Dogs At-Home?

Treating bad breath in dogs involves addressing the underlying causes. If your dog is experiencing bad breath due to bad oral hygiene, then you should be more regular with their brushing schedule. Also, remember to use a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, as some oral hygiene products made for humans can be harmful to dogs.

Apart from this, you can take the following steps to treat bad breath and promote the overall oral health of your dog:

  • Provide them with appropriate chew toys as well as dental treats that can help prevent plaque and tartar buildup
  • Use water additives that help reduce bacteria and bad mouth smell
  • Give them a well-balanced diet appropriate for their age, size, and health needs
  • Make sure they always have access to clean, fresh water, as drinking water can help rinse away the food particles stuck in their teeth

    If, even after taking all the right precautions, your dog still has bad breath, then you can consult with a veterinarian to determine the underlying health conditions that might be contributing to the issue.

    How to Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs?

    It’s inevitable that your dog, at some point in their life, will suffer from bad breath. However, you can tackle the problem even before it starts. Here’re a few things you can do to help prevent bad breath in your dog:

    • Feed them balanced and nutritious food and avoid ingredients that may cause them digestive discomfort
    • Establish a proper brushing routine and use a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste
    • Make sure they have clean, fresh water available at all times for proper hydration helps stimulate saliva production, which can rinse away food particles and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in their mouth, 
    • Give them chew toys, dental treats, and water-rich foods like celery and watermelon, as these can remove plaque and tartar buildup and also promote saliva production
    • Keep them away from garbage cans, household chemicals, human medications, and other toxic substances
    • Don’t feed them table scraps
    • Schedule regular vet checkups for oral examinations

      When to Take Your Dog to a Vet for Bad Breath?

      If your dog occasionally gets bad breath, then you probably don’t need to visit a vet. You can keep up with their brushing routine and try home remedies like chew toys and dental treats. 

      However, you should take them to a vet if:

      • the bad breath is persistent even after regular brushing,
      • there’s an unusually strong or foul odor from the breath,
      • the breath smells like urine (indicating kidney problems) or sweet and fruity (indicating diabetes),
      • bad breath is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, change in eating habits or changes in behavior,
      • or you have an older dog, a puppy, or a dog with pre-existing health conditions

        Remember that bad breath can be a sign of a bigger health problem. If you can provide your dog with prompt veterinary care, it can help prevent any unforeseen circumstances.

        Summing Up: Bad Breath in Dogs

        There can be endless reasons for your dog’s bad breath. It can be something minor like a food particle stuck between their teeth or a major health issue like kidney or liver disease. You should look for signs and accompanying symptoms to determine the cause and take appropriate action.

        You should also make sure that you maintain your dog’s proper oral hygiene by regularly brushing their teeth with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, providing well-balanced meals, and scheduling regular veterinary dental check-ups. These simple steps will go a long way in not only preventing bad breath but also promoting the overall oral health of your dog.

        Now if you have any more doubts about why your dog’s breath smells bad, then please consider consulting a veterinarian for further guidance.


        Let’s answer some frequently asked questions about why a dog’s breath smells so bad:

        1. What does bad breath in dogs mean?

        Bad breath in dogs can be caused due to various reasons, including dietary habits, periodontal disease, digestive issues, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or even oral tumors. You should look for additional symptoms or talk to a veterinarian, as they can help determine the exact cause of bad breath in your dog.

        2. Is bad breath in dogs a sign of illness?

        While an occasional bout of less-than-fresh breath is normal in dogs, persistent foul breath can be a sign of illness such as periodontal disease, digestive issues, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, or even oral tumors.

        In case of an illness, bad breath would be accompanied by other symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, changes in appetite, weakness, difficulty breathing, or a sudden change in behavior. If you notice these signs or your dog has persistent bad breath, you should consult a veterinarian in order to rule out any potential health concerns.

        3. What diseases cause bad breath in dogs?

        Various diseases, like periodontal disease and oral infections, can cause bad breath in dogs. Even some serious health conditions like kidney disease, liver disease, untreated or poorly managed diabetes, and oral tumors can contribute to bad breath in dogs.

        4. Does kidney disease in dogs cause bad breath?

        Yes, kidney disease can cause bad breath in dogs. It happens because kidneys are responsible for cleaning waste from a dog’s body, but when they aren’t working properly, a buildup of toxins and waste products occurs in the bloodstream. These toxins often emit an ammonia-like odor which often resembles the smell of urine. 





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