Bad Breath in Dogs: Causes & Remedies

Dog breath is something we all know about, but is it actually as normal as we think it is? Or is it a sign that there is something more serious at hand? Here, our La Mesa vets talk about the causes of stinky dog breath and when you should talk to a veterinarian about your dog's bad breath.

Why does my dog's breath smell?

'Dog breath' is a saying that we've used for many years to describe when someone has bad breath. While this is a common saying, stinky dog breath is not as common as we think it is. While it's perfectly normal for your pup to have some smell on their breath from eating, playing with toys, and just generally living their lives, this smell can sometimes grow into a stink that repels all but the bravest pup parents.

Many people may just deal with the smell not realizing the potential risk, but others may find the smell impossible to ignore. This can lead you to wonder 'Why does my dog's breath smell so bad??'. There are a number of different possible causes of stinky dog breath, but the most common are kidney disease, liver disease, and oral health issues. Here are some answers to 'Why do dogs have bad breath?':

Kidney Disease

If your pup's bad breath smells like feces or urine, it may be a sign that they have recently eaten poop (which is something you should look into on its own) or a symptom of kidney issues. 

If your dog's kidneys aren't working properly to filter and process toxins and waste materials, their buildup in the pup's body may be contributing to the bad smell of their breath on top of harming your dog's health! 

Liver Disease

If your dog has recently developed seriously bad breath and their new scent is accompanied by concerning symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, they may have a liver disease at the root cause of their symptoms. 

Oral Health Issues / Dental Decay

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs, oral health issues is an umbrella term including health issues ranging from tooth decay to gum disease and oral infections. Regardless of the precise cause, bacteria and food debris build up over time in your pooch's mouth if not regularly cleaned away, creating plaque and a persistent smell. 

Dental issues are one of the most common causes of stinky dog breath. Usually, these issues are minor and can be managed with professional dental care. However, if they are left unchecked, the smell will become much stronger and your pet's oral health and wellbeing will continue to decline. 

Treatment Options For a Dog's Bad Breath

So why do dogs have bad breath and what steps should you take if they do? The treatment for their breath will depend on what the cause was. This underlying condition will largely influence the kind of treatment they will require. Since bad breath is a sign of an underlying health condition rather than a health problem itself, it should dissipate once the underlying problem is successfully treated.

That being said, when you are wondering what causes bad breath in dogs you shouldn't assume the cause or that it is normal. Bring your pup to your vet as soon as possible for examination and diagnosis, since a number of causes of bad breath can be very serious health issues. 

Treating stinky dog breath can range from prescription medications, a dental examination and cleaning, specialized diets, therapies, and even surgeries to help treat your pet's condition depending on what part of their body it affects and its severity. Your vet will be able to advise you on what the best course of treatment is for the health issue underlying your pup's bad breath. 

How You Can Help Treat Stinky Dog Breath

Once we've figured out what causes the bad breath in dogs, we can begin to develop a treatment plan. While certain conditions will require professional veterinary care, there are steps that you can take at home to help manage your dog's smelly breath. This can include daily teeth brushing. Along with this at-home care, you should also bring your dog in for professional dental cleaning and exams yearly.

From the time they are a puppy, you should begin daily teeth brushing. By starting young you can help them to become used to this oral hygiene routine making it easier to accomplish.

In addition to this or if you aren't able to train your pup to tolerate brushing, instead of brushing, there are also a wide variety of dental chews and dog food designed to promote oral health available.

Speak with your vet about products that can help to keep your dog's mouth clean and healthy.

When it comes to preventing internal organ failure or disease affecting your dog's liver or kidneys, there are also a couple of easy measures you can take to help your pup avoid these causes of bad breath.

Some human medications, common houseplants, and foods that are safe for our consumption are actually quite toxic for our pets. Make sure you are aware of what kinds of substances you have in your home that could cause organ disease or failure in your pooch and keep them out of reach as much as possible.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have concerns that your dog's bad breath may be caused by a dental concern? Contact our vets in La Mesa to schedule an oral examination for your pup.