Bad Breath On Dogs

Attention SeekingFew smells are as unpleasant as a dog with bad breath. Your dog might think that you appreciate his kisses, but if he has bad breath, then getting up close and personal is the last thing that you want to do.

Bad dog breath is not just gross – it could also be a sign of a health problem. Before you pop your dog a doggy breath mint, take a moment to do a little research into the possible causes of bad breath and what you can do to treat and prevent it.



Bad Breath

The most common causes of bad breath in dogs are bad oral hygiene and periodontal disease. Just like in humans, the build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to the development of the bacteria that cause bad breath.

If your dog is not a chewer and you do not regularly brush his teeth or have his teeth cleaned, then the most likely cause of his bad breath is plaque build-up.

Over time, poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease. Too much plaque and tartar build-up can push the gums away from the teeth, exposing new areas for bacteria to develop. This not only inflames the dog’s gums, but it can lead to cavities, infection, tissue destruction, tooth loss, and even pus formation.

Needless to say, it also leads to very, very bad breath.


Dietary Habits

Dogs can be gross. Sometimes their habits translate directly into bad breath. If your dog regularly gets into the garbage, or has access to decomposing animal remains, then his bad breath could be the result of unsupervised snacking.

Dogs also seem to love cat poop, and a household with cats can offer too much temptation for your dog to resist. Not only is this smelly, it is also unhygienic. As if cat poop wasn’t bad enough, some dogs eat their own poop or the poop of other dogs, a condition called coprophagia that causes bad breath in dogs and occasionally mild nausea in their horrified owners.


Lip Folds

Bad Breath from Lip folds

Lip folds, facial skin folds, and even a dog’s ears can produce odor that appears to be coming from the mouth – but isn’t. Skin folds and ears: I know what those are! But the lip fold completely escaped me. In many dogs, it’s a tiny, barely perceptible crevice on the lower jaw, on each side of the mouth, in the area where lip mucosal tissue meets haired skin.

Lip-fold pyoderma is a form of skin-fold pyoderma. Wet and warm, lip (and facial) folds provide everything that pathogenic bacteria and/or yeast need to take up residence.

The condition is more prevalent in dogs with loose jowls, droolers, and those with deeper lip and skin folds on their faces. Spaniels, German Shepherds, Bulldogs, Mastiffs, and Newfoundlands are just a few of the breeds prone to the condition, but it may also present in dogs who swim or whose lip folds tend to stay wet.


Liver Disease

If your dogs breath is truly foul and she is also vomiting, exhibiting a lack of appetite, and has a yellow tinge to her gums, she may have a liver problem. Like kidney disease, liver problems can be a sign of a serious condition, and it is vital that you get your dog into the veterinarian or emergency clinic as soon as possible.


Kidney Disease

A dog that eats poop might have breath that smells like poop, but if your dog’s breath smells like urine, it is most likely not because she has been drinking pee.

A urine odor to your dogs breath is a warning sign of kidney disease, and warrants a visit to your veterinarian. Kidney disease is serious and could be a symptom of a larger medical problem.



If your dogs bad breath has a sweet or fruity smell to it, you need to make an appointment with your veterinarian. Sweet, fruity breath is a symptom of diabetes, a serious but treatable condition.

Talk with your veterinarian about the other symptoms of diabetes to look out for, like more frequent drinking and urination, and set up an appointment to get your dog examined.


Treating Bad Dog Breath

Treating bad breath

As important as it is to understand the underlying issues behind bad dog breath, what we really want to know is how to get rid of it. Curing bad dog breath depends on the cause, but luckily there are quite a few treatment options out there.

If plaque, tartar, and periodontal disease are behind your dogs bad breath, then the best thing you can do is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to see if your dog is a candidate for a dental cleaning.

Your veterinarian will run blood work to make sure your dog can handle anesthesia, and this appointment is also a great time to rule out any other potential causes for your dogs bad breath.

During the cleaning, your veterinarian may have to remove loose or damaged teeth, depending on the scope of the periodontal disease.

When it comes to unsupervised snacking, securing the trash and limiting your dogs access to unpleasant outdoor finds, like roadkill, will resolve this issue.

Placing the litter box outside of his reach is a simple solution that eliminates cat feces consumption, unless the cats are also pooping outside, and cleaning up directly after your dog can help prevent coprophagia.

Diabetes, kidney, and liver disease are all conditions that require treatment from a veterinarian. Once the underlying issue is resolved, your dogs bad breath should go away, too.


Just A Couple Minutes

Just a couple minuts

The simplest way to prevent bad dog breath is to brush your dogs teeth on a regular basis. Teeth brushing reduces plaque and promotes better oral hygiene, much as it does in humans, and with a little training, most dogs learn to enjoy having their teeth brushed.

Again, if this does not solve the problem, or you have noticed some other signs, then you may need to take a different approach. Happy Tails, Happy Trails!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, and we will get back with you as soon as possible.