A Definitive Guide To Dog Bad Breath [A Must Read]

By Gabriela Elizondo / July 14, 2017
Dog Bad Breath


“Too Long – Didn’t Read” Version: We recommend VetsPreferred.

Bad Breath in Dogs

If your dog’s breath is getting harder to stomach, it may be time to check their oral hygiene. Stinky food isn’t the only culprit for dog bad breath. In reality, unpleasant dog breath can actually be a sign of bigger health problems such as diabetes or kennel cough.

Dog Bad Breath

Halitosis, or bad breath, is caused by an increase of bacteria in a dog mouth, lungs and gut. Halitosis describes the odor that is produced by an excess of bacteria in the mouth. This condition can be caused by a number of things, but the main culprit is usually poor oral hygiene.


Periodontal and other mouth diseases are common in dogs due to lack of dog dental health and care. As much as we don’t want to hear it, it is partly our fault. Not many pet parents think about brushing their dog’s teeth daily or giving them dental care products. Unfortunately, this lack of attention to our dog’s oral hygiene can end up causing them a lot of pain and discomfort.


Luckily, you’ve taken the first step towards giving your dog a more complete and proactive health plan. Information is the best tool for bettering ourselves and improving the overall health of your loyal companion. By reading this article, you will learn about dental care and how to prevent dental issues from coming back!


Dog Bad Breath Causes

Not all bad doggie breath is created equal. Although they all may smell unpleasant, it’s important to pay attention to the particular smell. As I’ll go on to explain, bad puppy breath can be caused by a myriad of conditions, but sometimes the odor of your pup’s breath may help you figure out what’s going on.

Some of the most common causes of dog bad breath includes:


Poor Oral Hygiene and Periodontal Disease

Did you know that puppy bad breath is a major indicator of gum disease in dogs? It’s true!


Poor oral hygiene is the number one sign of periodontal disease or other oral conditions. The buildup of bacteria in their mouths that lead to these serious conditions are typically the cause of the foul odor coming from your pup.Dog Bad Breath

Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums clean are essential steps to avoid issues like gingivitis or kidney infections. The bacteria living inside your dog’s mouth is a breeding ground for a number of conditions. Gingivitis is a type of gum inflammation that is a precursor to periodontitis. Gingivitis can be easily avoided with daily brushing and good oral hygiene practices. It is the plaque buildup that causes their gums to become inflamed and sensitive. Bottom line: tooth and gum health should not be put on the back burner!


Periodontal disease can lead to all types of problems for your pup. From tooth decay to extreme dental pain. It’s important to catch it in the early stages to avoid the unnecessary pain for your dog.


Along with persistent dog bad breath, keep an eye out for these other symptoms associated with periodontal disease:

  • Pawing at their mouth
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Blood in the water bowl or on chew toys
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Bloody or ropey saliva
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Overall sensitivity in their mouth region

If left untreated, the bacterial infection from periodontal disease can travel to other parts of your dog’s body, causing major inflammation and organ issues.


According to sources, small breeds are more likely to have dental problems due to their teeth being closer together. Teeth that are closer together are more prone to plaque and tartar build-up. So make sure to be extra careful with smaller breeds to avoid any complications.


Bad Dietary Habits

We love our dogs, we really do, but sometimes they can be just plain gross. Their fascination with getting into the garbage, sticking their noses into road kill, or even eating cat poop all lead to dog bad breath. This “unsupervised snacking”, while nauseating for their human, is something that is fairly common in pet households. Do your dog (and yourself) a favor and make sure to keep an eye on them when you know these undesirable things are within reach. While plenty of non-food items cause dog bad breath, sometimes the culprit really is just your dog’s food.


Both dry and wet food offer different benefits. Dry food is said to help keep teeth clean while moist food’s high water content is also good for your pup’s oral health. As any pet owner can attest, canned food doesn’t always have the most pleasant smell. While the bad breath from their dietary choices may be common, they are often temporary and can be easily solved with time and rinsing their mouth out with water.

If you’re concerned that your dog’s food is causing bad breath, talk to your vet to discuss some options for your pet.



If your dog’s breath has a sweet and fruity smell, the cause could be diabetes. Unchecked diabetes can affect your dog’s immune system, leading to more bacteria growth in their oral regions which results in more dog bad breath. This condition, though serious, is very treatable if found early. Be on the look out for other warning signs such as frequent drinking and urination, lethargy, or loss of appetite. If you notice these symptoms, consult a veterinarian as soon as possible for a more in-depth examination.

Sick Dog

Kidney Disease

If your dog’s breath smells like urine or ammonia, it maybe a sign of decreased kidney function. When the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, waste can build up in the bloodstream and can end up affecting the patient’s breath. Make sure to notify your vet immediately if your dog’s breath smells like urine or ammonia. Kidney disease is a serious condition which can lead to bigger health problems.


Liver Disease

One of the more serious causes of dog bad breath is liver disease. While rare, it can still happen if the bacterial infection is severe enough. Liver disease is commonly associated with bad breath, vomiting, lack of appetite and yellowish gums. If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible.


In short, sometimes dog bad breath is just that: bad dog breath.

But dog owners shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this unpleasant condition because, as we discovered above, it may be a symptom of another, more serious issue.


How To Get Rid Of Bad Breath In Dogs

Acknowledging your dog’s bad breath is one thing. Knowing how to get rid of it is another issue altogether. Luckily, there are a few practices you can incorporate that will make a huge difference.

Professional dental cleaning and routine checkups are the some of the best ways to maintain good oral health. However, methods like dental treats, mouthwashes, and natural remedies are also great ways to prevent your pup from having dog bad breath. The most effective mouthwash for dog is the water additive. It’s an easy to use option as all you have to do is add a little bit to your pup’s water and it helps control plaque and tartar while freshening your furbaby’s breath.  Keep in mind, however, dental treats and water additives are to be used to supplement teeth brushing, not in place of it.

Toothbrush For Dog Bad Breath

Daily Tooth Brushing

Getting your pup comfortable with daily brushing is a process. First, you need to purchase pet-formulated toothpaste. DO NOT give your dog toothpaste meant for humans. Human toothpaste contains chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate and xylitol that are unsafe for animals. Additionally, the foamy consistency of human toothpaste can lead to a lot of stomach discomfort for your pup.

Pet toothpaste is a safe alternative that comes in delicious flavors (to dogs at least) of peanut butter, mint, liver, and other meat flavors. Just make sure you get an enzymatic toothpaste.

Enzymatic toothpaste includes glucose oxidase, an enzyme that is made from the same fungus that produces penicillin. Once the enzymes come into contact with your dog’s teeth, they provide protection. No hard brushing necessary!

As far as toothbrushes go, soft bristles are preferable as they won’t damage your pup’s gums. You should brush in a circular motion, giving your dog a chance to get used to both the taste of the pet toothpaste and the feeling of the brush. Once they are comfortable, you can slowly build up to regular brushings. Soon enough your dog will be excited for their daily teeth cleaning!


Chew Toys

Chew toys are an easy option for pet parents who feel like that they don’t have enough time in the day. Give your dog some safe chew toys and watch how the gnawing process helps clean your dog’s teeth naturally (without you lifting a finger). Not only will you be spoiling your dog with all these fun toys, but they will be working double time to loosen plaque build-up and dislodge old food particles.

There are also specially formulated dental chews like Greenies, Whimzees and OraVet Dental Hygiene Chews (just to name a few) that are designed to promote natural plaque removal while freshening their breath at the same time. The majority of these dental chews are completely edible, so your dog will work their way through this chew like another delicious treat. Toys like the rubber Kong balls, rawhide strips or rope toys are all great options to help prevent gum disease and bacterial buildup in your dog’s mouth.

Here’s a useful tip if you’re trying to get your dog accustomed to the taste of pet toothpaste. Smear some pet toothpaste on a Kong chew toy for some good “clean” fun. Chewing is a great way to prevent gum disease, plaque buildup and it also helps relieve boredom, so be sure to keep plenty of these chew toys around the house.


Natural Remedies

If you’re looking for more natural solutions for your pup’s bad breath, look no further than your pantry. Many pet parents have found that parsley is an excellent option to help freshen up your dog’s breath. You can use chopped up parsley in their food or boil it to create DIY breath spray. Dogs don’t seem to mind the taste (some even enjoy it), and it has fantastic breath freshening effects.


Another miracle food for bad doggy breath is apple cider vinegar for dogs. Now, if you’ve read any of our other articles, you’d know that apple cider vinegar can work miracles. Whether you’re treating skin irritations, flea bites or diarrhea–ACV can do it all. Not only can your pup enjoy all the health benefits of ACV, but it can also do wonders for their breath. Gradually add small amounts (½ a teaspoon) of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl. With consistent use of ACV, you’ll see a decrease in the smell and frequency of your dog’s bad breath. Lastly, essential oils can help aid dog bad breath as well!


Dietary Change

Feeding your dog a quality diet full of vegetables, nutrients, and healthy grains will keep your pup feeling good inside and out, which will then help avoid a number of other conditions, including dental problems. If your pet is already pretty healthy, any additional symptoms can be easily identified by the vet. This just means that the vet will be able to find the real underlying problem behind their bad breath (before it becomes dangerous).

Dog Bad Diet

“Dental diets” are a popular option to help prevent plaque buildup. The texture creates a scrubbing effect on your dog’s teeth due to the tough, non-crumbling consistency of the food. Additionally, there are numerous wet dog food options that advertise a special coating that discourages the formation of plaque and bacteria. These types of special dental diets are only available through specialty stores or through your veterinarian.

Feeding your dog too much meat can also be contributing to that bad odor coming from their mouth. Try filling their bowl up with veggies, rice or even small amounts of yogurt, instead of meat. The yogurt acts like a natural probiotic that can soothe their digestive system, which sometimes is a contributing factor to stinky breath. When dogs have trouble breaking down food, there is a greater chance that bacteria will grow in their gastrointestinal tract which can then lead to the oral bacteria that produces dog bad breath.  Veggies are also natural, saliva-producing teeth and gum cleaners.


Sprays, Water Additives, or Mouthwash

Dog Mouthwash

As a supplement to daily brushing, you can introduce pet mouthwash into their routine for extra clean teeth! Using vet-approved mouthwash, oral sprays, and dental treats can be a great (and easy) way to prevent poor oral hygiene from coming back. These oral health products can be found in pet specialty stores and online retailers.

Bad dog breath does not have to be a problem! With the ease and convenience of pet- formulated mouthwashes, oral sprays, and other dental products, it’s never been easier to ensure fresh breath for your pup. If your dog is struggling with regular tooth brushing, you can use these products to supplement your dog dental care plan. These water additives are ideal for pet parents seeking a quick and easy way to freshen their dog’s breath and prevent bacteria from accumulating in their mouth. By just adding a small amount to dog drinking water, your buddy will be protected against plaque, tartar and gum disease. Helping pet owners keep up with their dog dental care plan, even when their pet hasn’t quite taken to the idea of daily brushing.

While pet dental sprays are not meant as a “cure” for dental disease, it’s a fantastic way to help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar while freshening your dog’s breath. Pets who already have a serious case of periodontal disease should seek the help of a vet.

Sprays and water additives are an easy and affordable way to maintain a healthy dental care plan. Talk to your veterinarian about the products they recommend!


Preventing Dog Bad Breath

Say goodbye to dog bad breath and hello to your dog’s healthy pearly whites.

Dog Toothbrush

The easiest way to prevent bad pet breath in dogs is to brush their teeth on a regular basis. Brushing removes plaque, prevent tooth decay and promotes healthy oral hygiene.

If pets could talk, they would let us know when their teeth are hurting or when their gums are sensitive. Alas, we haven’t figured out human-dog talking yet, so you’ll have to do your homework and be on top of their dental care. For that reason, we’ve created a simple 5 step plan to healthier oral hygiene for your dog. Follow these steps (along with trying some of the remedies above) to ensure you don’t have a dental scare in the future.

My 5 step dog dental care plan:

  1. Brush their teeth daily
  2. Use pet toothpaste
  3. Replace hard bones with chewy bones
  4. Use pet mouthwash or dental treats
  5. Get regular Vet check-ups

Even though you may hear this all the time, I’m going to repeat it once more because it’s so important….Prevention is key! Overall dental health is a combination of good hygiene practices, regular check-ups, and daily teeth cleaning. It only takes a few minutes of your day to ensure your dog avoids the risk of dental disease or bacterial infections.

So take my advice and take good care of your pup’s teeth. They will thank you for it!

Using the tips and products mentioned above, you can prevent bad dog breath before it has the chance to ruin your day. Remember, as harmless as it might seem, dog bad breath may be a precursor to dental diseases or other serious health concerns. In short– giving your dog a healthy smile can make all the difference for a healthy life.

You know what else is HUGE for dog health? Organic coconut oil! It can help help skin issues and along with probiotics and digestive enzymes, coconut oil can aid in health digestion ! Read more about that here…

About the author

Gabriela Elizondo