Why Is My Dog’s Breath So Bad?

Dogs arent exactly known for their dental hygiene and their minty fresh breath. But theres a big difference between standard dog breath and the strong, sour odors that remind their owners of rotting fish, or even fecal matter.

While these cases can range from minor to serious, its important to know the signs of bad breath that arent the product of a few missed cleanings. Some characteristics of your dogs bad breath can clue you in to underlying health issues that require medical treatment.

Other accompanying symptoms of bad breath, such as a loss of appetite or vomiting, may also be a sign of an oral injury, rotting tooth or even liver disease. In the cases of bad dietary habits, carefully watching what your pet consumes in the house by keeping them away from garbage or fecal matter will help rule out other issues.

Why does my dog's breath smell like death?

Liver disease can cause the breath to smell musty or like a dead animal. This is because the liver is no longer able to properly filter out toxins so stinky sulfur compounds, such as thiols, are released into the lungs.

How do I fix my dogs bad breath?

Brush teeth correctly. The Veterinary Oral Health Council recommends certain products for a thorough teeth cleaning. ….Chew and chomp. ….Visit the vet. ….Yapping for yogurt. ….Buy special teeth treats. ….Relish some rawhide. ….Pass the parsley. ….Use water additives.

What can I do for my dog's bad breath at home?

Adding roughly half a teaspoon of raw organic apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl can help freshen up breath. Supplementing your pup’s regular diet with a probiotic formulated specifically for dogs can help balance healthy oral bacteria and keep breath smelling fresh.

“I think it’s always going to have a faint waft of badness,” says Angelica Dimock, DVM, and the managing shelter veterinarian at the Animal Humane Society, located in St. Paul, Minn.

That’s why it’s important to have a good idea of what your dog’s “average” breath smells like. If your dog’s breath does take a turn for the worse, it’s likely time to call a veterinarian to identify the culprit.

Receding gums Lumps under the eyes or in the mouth Bloody saliva Sneezing or nasal discharge Avoiding touches to the head or nose Dimock says that if your dog is having issues digesting her food, her breath might smell “meaty.” If you smell bad breath, it also could be a sign of ulcers or even a small intestine issue.

That smell is ketones or a chemical the liver produces when your dog’s body lacks enough insulin to convert sugar into energy. In serious cases, dog bad breath could be a sign of oral cancer . Paradoxically, your dog’s breath might actually smell worse following a professional dental cleaning.

“Immediately after the dental [treatment], like the night of, it might smell a little weird because we do use, just like what a human dentist uses, that polishing paste,” Dimock says. In Dimock’s experience, the treats on the market for bad breath don’t address the underlying problem. But what I’ve come to find out is that now you have rotting breath with mint on it, so it makes it smell even worse,” Dimock says.

Watch out for animal bones (as these can damage your pup’s teeth and potentially cause fractures) and opt for textured toys instead. If you’ve ruled out that your pooch is digging through the garbage, and the foul smell is getting worse, it’s probably time to seek professional help and have a vet check your dog’s teeth and health.

Bad dog breath is a common condition that can make some pet parents hesitate when getting close to their dog. The American Veterinary Medical Association named February as National Pet Dental Health month; were creating awareness about it by talking about causes of bad dog breath, many of which are connected to dental health.

For example, an imbalanced gut microbiome can cause bad breath because an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can produce a lot of smelly gas. Diabetes can cause a buildup of ketones, a byproduct from the body breaking down fat instead of glucose, resulting in breath smelling sweet, fruity or like nail polish remover.

Kidney disease can result in high urea levels in the body, causing the breath to smell like urine or fishy. While less common in dogs, bowel obstructions, acid reflux, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal issues can manifest as bad breath. This can worsen canine diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and making it harder to manage blood sugar levels.

Providing your dog with lots of chew toys is also an effective way to improve oral health because the gnawing process knocks off plaque and can increase saliva production to wash away bacteria. The good news is that the early stages of gum disease are reversible with positive changes to oral hygiene practices.

Spend a few minutes with any dog and youll likely catch a whiff of his breath because dogs arent shy. They also arent known for fresh-smelling mouths. But bad breath isnt just an unpleasant thing for youit can mean something serious for your pup.

A lot of times you can lift up the dogs lip, look at their gums, [and see that] theyre very red and inflamed, says Dr. Jeffrey Stupine, VMD, Head Veterinarian, Wellness of the Pennsylvania SPCA. You can see the tartar build up on the teeth. He notes that some issues cant be seen though, including cavities below the gum line.

In fact, a decrease in kidney function can make a dogs breath smell like ammonia, Stupine says. The waste products that are normally eliminated by the kidneys build up in the bloodstream and then show up in the breath of affected individuals, says Dr. Steve Barghusen, DVM, of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Minnesota. If you suspect your dog has ingested a potential toxin (antifreeze or a rodenticide, for example), call your vet immediately, as emergency care may be required.

Uncontrolled diabetes can also suppress the immune system, allowing bacteria in the mouth to grow unchecked, according to Barghusen. Dr. Jennifer Quammen, DVM, of Grants Lick Veterinary Hospital in Kentucky says that she has seen bones, fishing hooks and sticks all cause foul breath in dogs. Your dogs teeth and gums arent the only areas for concern when it comes to possible causes of bad breath.

Digestive Issues

The biggest cause of dog bad breath is periodontal disease. The bad smell that you’re detecting could be rotting teeth or gums. “If it’s getting worse and worse, that would be a sign of seriousness,” Dimock says.If your dog is suffering from periodontal disease, there are other signs you should watch out for besides just bad dog breath.”If they’re not chewing on their toys anymore or not eating the hard food or taking a really long time to eat their hard food. They might take one kibble, and chew it. And then come back a few minutes later, and take another kibble and they do that throughout the day. That could be them saying, ‘Ouch, like something is hurting in here,'” Dimock says.Other signs of periodontal or gum disease include:To check on the state of your dog’s oral health, you can lift up your dog’s lip. If all you see is brown, that’s probably tartar and an indication that your dog needs a teeth cleaning from a pro.

Diabetes

If a dog has diabetes, you might pick up on a “sweet” smell. That smell is ketones or a chemical the liver produces when your dog’s body lacks enough insulin to convert sugar into energy. “It would be like a really fruity smell,” Dimock says.

Cancer

In serious cases, dog bad breath could be a sign of oral cancer. “As cancers grow, a lot of times the local tissues are rotting away because they’re getting eaten by the cancer. So [bad breath] can be a sign of that,” Dimock says.A gastrointestinal cancer could also cause the breath to smell, but if cancer is the cause it’s more likely to be oral cancer.

Dog Bad Breath After a Dental Cleaning

Paradoxically, your dog’s breath might actually smell worse following a professional dental cleaning. But this is temporary and should dissipate quickly.”Immediately after the dental [treatment], like the night of, it might smell a little weird because we do use, just like what a human dentist uses, that polishing paste,” Dimock says. “Some people will have flavored ones for dogs and some don’t. So it might just be this weird chemical smell. But usually, afterward, the vast majority of people are thanking us because the smells are so much better because we got rid of the source of the smell.”

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth Regularly

According to VCA Hospitals, it is ideal to brush your dog’s teeth daily if you can, but three times per week minimum.

Provide Plenty of Chew Toys

You can also try chew toys to help with the tartar that can build up and cause bad breath. Watch out for animal bones (as these can damage your pup’s teeth and potentially cause fractures) and opt for textured toys instead. Any toy that you can’t indent with your thumb is too hard.

Gum Disease

The most common cause of bad breath is a build up of bacteria on your dog’s teeth, called plaque. While a healthy mouth has bacteria in it, plaque promotes the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria that produce unpleasant odors, causing bad breath. If plaque isn’t removed, it can cause irritation and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which are the first signs of gum disease (also known as periodontal disease).When left untreated, gum disease can be dangerous to your pet’s health. Despite gum disease being preventable with a regular oral hygiene regimen, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that roughly 80% of dogs have gum disease by age three. That’s a lot of bad breath!

An Imbalanced Oral or Gut Microbiome

Balanced gut microbiomes and oral microbiomes are both very important for your dog’s overall health. Many think the route from the mouth to the gut is a one way street, but oral health and gut health are actually quite connected. A microbiome can become imbalanced when ‘bad’ bacteria are present, overpower beneficial bacteria, or grow too numerous.For example, an imbalanced gut microbiome can cause bad breath because an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine can produce a lot of smelly gas. This gas can be absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually exhaled, causing bad breath. This suggests that some conditions related to imbalances in the gut microbiome can cause bad breath.Alternatively, an imbalanced oral microbiome can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Dogs swallow a lot of saliva, which contains bacteria from the mouth, so it’s no surprise some of those bacteria end up living in the gut. Too many ‘bad’ bacteria in the mouth could end up growing in the gut, causing an imbalanced microbiome, which can also contribute to bad breath.

7 Reasons Your Dog Has Bad Breath

Spend a few minutes with any dog and you’ll likely catch a whiff of his breath because dogs aren’t shy. They also aren’t known for fresh-smelling mouths. But bad breath isn’t just an unpleasant thing for you—it can mean something serious for your pup.Sometimes a simple tooth brushing might suffice, but other times, bad breath is the sign of a more serious problem that requires veterinary care. Learn the common causes of bad breath in dogs so that you can protect your four-legged friend.Image: / Shutterstock

Dental or Gum Disease

Bad breath (known medically as halitosis) in dogs can occur when your dog has a dental condition—from gum disease or infection to tooth decay.“A lot of times you can lift up the dog’s lip, look at their gums, [and see that] they’re very red and inflamed,” says Dr. Jeffrey Stupine, VMD, Head Veterinarian, Wellness of the Pennsylvania SPCA. “You can see the tartar build up on the teeth.” He notes that some issues can’t be seen though, including cavities below the gum line.Although your vet looks for obvious signs of dental disease during your dog’s annual checkup, it’s a good idea to make an appointment in between visits if you suspect a dental issue.Image: / Shutterstock

Kidney Disease

Metabolic diseases like kidney disease or failure can cause bad breath. In fact, a decrease in kidney function can make a dog’s breath smell like ammonia, Stupine says.“The waste products that are normally eliminated by the kidneys build up in the bloodstream and then show up in the breath of affected individuals,” says Dr. Steve Barghusen, DVM, of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic in Minnesota.Image: / Shutterstock

A Toxic Substance

All dogs are different, but there’s a common assumption that some dogs will eat anything, including things that are bad for them. Sometimes it’s true.“There’s a whole number of toxic substances out there, and if they smell bad, that might cause a dog to have bad breath at the same time,” Stupine said. If you suspect your dog has ingested a potential toxin (antifreeze or a rodenticide, for example), call your vet immediately, as emergency care may be required.Image: / Shutterstock

Diabetes

Diabetes, specifically diabetic ketoacidosis, can also make a dog’s breath smell unusual, giving it a sweet, almost fruity smell. Uncontrolled diabetes can also “suppress the immune system, allowing bacteria in the mouth to grow unchecked,” according to Barghusen.Image: / Shutterstock

Foreign Substances

Unfortunately, dogs eat plenty of non-food items that aren’t good for their bodiesBarghusen agrees that dogs do sometimes eat some pretty undesirable things: “Eating disgusting stuff like feces and long-dead animals can also cause significantly bad breath.”Image: / Shutterstock

Oral Tumors

Your dog’s teeth and gums aren’t the only areas for concern when it comes to possible causes of bad breath. Oral tumors are another potential cause due to the fact that their growth is often too fast for blood vessels to keep up, thus causing dead areas, Bargusen says. Bacteria then takes over the dead areas, and that bacteria is often what causes a foul odor, he says.Barghusen notes that oral tumors can vary in shape and size so if you notice any masses or discolorations in your dog’s mouth, they should be checked out by a veterinarian.Image: / Shutterstock