What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs

by Healthy Barks Social September 05, 2022 7 min read

What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Bad Breath

We love our furballs and while all their lovely cuddles and kisses are their way of showing love to pet parents, bad mouth odour can be a serious problem for both the pet parents and the pet. There are a variety of causes of bad breath and it can be difficult to ignore for a pet parent, especially when the dog regularly licks your face. It can also lead to infection in other organs such as the heart and kidney. 

Pet parents need to be aware of the fact that bad breath in dogs can be a sign of serious health problems. 

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There are bizzare ways pet parents try to stop their dogs from having unwanted smells like brushing their dog’s teeth with human toothpastes, keeping toilet lids closed etc. Many even believe that it is normal for canines to have bad breath. 

It is extremely important to look after a dog's dental health. In this blog, we discuss the underlying factors behind bad breath in dogs and the different ways to combat it. 


Common Causes of Bad Breath

Bad dog breath is not permanent but is rather a health condition that can be cured if pet parents take the proper measures. It’s extremely important to normalise talking about bad dog breath. Knowing about probable sources of bad breath can help identify and eliminate it. 

Let’s look at some of the common causes of stinky dog breath:

  • Plaque

The general cause of bad breath is a stockpile of bacteria inside the canine's teeth, named as plaque. Yes! A bad smell that you’re sensing is due to the decaying of gums or teeth. If it becomes worse and worse, your dog’s longevity would be tragic. Gently, pet parents can lift up their dog’s lip and analyse. If it appears like a browny zone, that’s certainly tartar. Its build-up leads to gum inflammation (gingivitis).  Understand that your dog now requires a pro-based teeth cleaning to resist awaited periodontal disease.


  • Gum Disease

Gum disease is the most common cause of foul odour coming from a dog’s mouth. Gum disease and tooth problems such as an abscess, oral ulcerations, oral infections, tumors of the oral system, bone or hair caught in the mouth can lead to a foul odour. Hence, it should be an everyday habit to take care of your dog’s dental hygiene. Good oral hygiene practices like regularly brushing your dog’s teeth (great time to also bond with your dog), providing them with chew toys, treats that promote dental health, and routinely checking for gum inflammation can help you stay on top of your dog’s oral health. 


  • Cancer

Teeth and gum are not the only areas of concern. In certain cases, your dog’s bad breath might be a symbol of oral tumor (cancer). As cancers develop, simultaneously the local tissues start to decay because they are eaten up by the cancer. Yes! They’re destroyed due to cancer cells resulting in dead areas.Oral tumors can vary in shape and size. If you notice any discolorations in your dog’s mouth, they should be checked out by a veterinarian.

Gastrointestinal cancer, although less common, is also a cause for breath to smell foul. 

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  • Health Conditions

There are several diseases or conditions linked to bad breath, therefore, it’s essential to test before onset of threatening illnesses in a gentle way. The most common links among bad breath and diseases are diabetes, liver and kidney disease. 

  • Diabetes -might develop loads of ketones in dogs, a derivative from the body abolishing fat rather than glucose. This makes dogs breathe sensing sweet, tangy or a nail polish remover. Besides, dog diabetes ends with high sugar levels. Higher sugar contented saliva is the main reason for bad, odour-creating bacteria to increase. Uncontrolled diabetes 
  • Liver disease - causes breath to sense musty or alike dead animals. It’s actually due to the inability of the liver to properly eliminate toxins and thiols (sulphur mixtures), when it enters the inside lungs. 
  • Kidney disease – can impact higher urea levels in the dog's body, making breath to feel like urine or odd. Kidneys are also a vital organ for rejecting toxins. A decline in kidney function can cause breath to have the odour of ammonia.

Your Dog’s Diet

While we should be highly cautious about our furballs attacking on garbage or other toxic substances, it is equally important to keep a check on their diet and how it is affecting their overall health. Even dog-approved foods or treats can also affect your dog’s breath. It is important to provide the diet that is best-suited for your dog. 

The most widely fed food to dogs i.e.dry food or kibble causes indigestion or digestive issues that can also result in bad breath. The highly processed ingredients that kibble is made of can negatively affect your dog’s digestive system. An imbalanced gut microbiome causes foul mouth odour in dogs. Also, the inadequate nutrients in kibble due to high-temperature processing affects your dog’s oral health. 


A healthy and balanced diet can help prevent bad dog breath. 

Feeding afresh food diet, naturally made from clean ingredients with an optimal balance of all the essential nutrients can help improve your dog’s overall health to a huge extent. Whatever your dog chucks has greatly to do with their oral hygiene. If your dog fails to get the right diet, gum and oral health suffers, gradually leading to foul breath. Good nutrition plays a critical role in those fresh-smelling mouths. 

At healthy barks, meals are clinically formulated by vet nutritionists in order to provide the required nutrition for your pupper. All-natural, ethically sourced, ingredients with high nutrient content are used to prepare personalised, safe and healthy meals. 

To build your pup’s fresh, tailor-made meal box, Get Startedhere. You can keep updating your dog’s profile with their changing needs as they grow and we will take care of the rest. 

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Senior Dogs And Bad Breath 

Is it true? That when your dog ages, his mouth odour worsens? Certainly yes! Bad breath is more common in older dogs as tartar builds up over the years unless good dental care is given to them from an early age. Pet parents think that a maximum of adult dogs don’t require teeth cleanings. Adult dog’s digestion and saliva production is lesser than a young dog. It’s really a sign of a health condition as mentioned above before in the blog.

Fact Check: Sometimes, pet parents tend to make assumptions about their dog’s bad breath. Several pups show teeth difficulties due to their small-sized mouths. Their teeth get congested and cause more tartar build-up. 


Treating Tips for Your Dog’s Bad Breath

Bad dog breath can be controlled and also prevented if the right measures are taken starting from an early stage by the pet parents. Monitoring your dog’s dental health, regular and diligent tooth brushing, use of appropriate mouth-washes, feeding an appropriate diet, visiting an expert veterinarian for monthly check-ups will help resolve the issue of foul mouth odour.

Tips to manage and prevent bad dog breath:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth frequently
  • Use a toothpaste designed specially for dogs along with a toothbrush planned for usage on dogs. Do not practise human toothpaste on your dog because elements like Xylitol are poisonous to dogs. Veterinarians mention brushing your dog's teeth daily for complete success. Following a regular routine is useful for taking out plaque before it could toughen into tartar, preventing the odour-affecting bacteria.


    • Stop feeding table scraps

    Your pet might wish for table scraps but it is not wise to please your dogs with food that is not meant for them in the very first place. Human diet can develop the bio risks of plaque and tartar inside their teeth. There is nothing more harmful than feeding leftover food or table scraps to dogs. 

    Apart from affecting the dental health of your dog, it also results in severe health conditions and is a big contributor to dog obesity. 

    A balanced diet can help improve a dog’s overall health and his oral health. Provide your dog with an expert vet nutritionist approved diet.

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    • Professional Vet Treatments

    If the bad breath persists, it is important to immediately visit the vet. Consider annual cleanings by your veterinarian. The vet will do a nice, deep clean and polish and check for any issues such as cavities or tooth damage. The veterinarian can identify the underlying cause of the bad odour. Your veterinarian may use treatments to remove heavy tartar in order to avoid serious life-threatening conditions later. 

    It’s important to consult a vet or nutritionist to understand your dog’s condition rather than diagnosing on your own. 


    • Chew Toys 

    You can give your dog chew toys that can specifically help with the tartar build up causing the bad breath. It is wiser to get the toys approved by your veterinarian to avoid any potential fractures or damage to your dog’s teeth. Giving your dog dental chews is one way to combat bad breath. Keep a watchful eye on the ingredients in your dog’s dental chews to avoid any disease-causing bacteria.

    5 Tricks to Get Rid of Bad Breath in Dogs


    The Bottom Line

    It’s high time we stop underestimating the importance of our dog’s dental health. Poor care of your dog’s dental hygiene can result in serious health implications such as dental plaque, gum disease, and difficulty eating. The bacteria from teeth and gums can damage the dog’s kidneys, liver and the heart. In order to ensure their furry ones are healthy and fit, pet parents should take the importance of looking after their dog’s teeth and dental wellbeing more seriously. If bad breath is an ongoing problem with your dog, we urge pet parents to take their dog to a qualified vet immediately. 

    We highly recommend human-grade, fresh and healthy foods for dogs. It helps in the holistic care and development of your dog. We, at Healthy Barks, as a Pet Healthcare and Fresh Food brand, believe that it is our duty to help. We design personalised meals for dogs. The meals are curated by expert in-house nutritionists keeping in view the dietary needs of your dog. Various essential factors come into play like age, breed, body weight, life stage etc. 

    Check out Healthy Bark’s wholesome and freshChicken and Fish meal for your doggo.

    Most pet-parents often struggle with managing their pet’s nutritional requirements. We help pet parents with fresh, complete and tailored nutrition for their pets by providing personalized meal plans (made fresh with real ingredients) specially designed to meet their pet’s health needs, and formulated by a veterinary nutritionist so that they stay worry-free & can get on with spending real-time with their doggos. We are currently serving in Bangalore. So, if you reside in Bangalore, book a free, in-person consultation with the Healthy Barks family at https://www.healthybarks.in/free-consultation or feel free to call or drop us a ‘Hi’ on WhatsApp at +91 - 76767 20200. Come and enjoy a food tasting session with us!

    PS: If you have any additional queries, or would want us to cover any specific topic, feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

    Happy Wagging & Healthy Barks!

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