Help! My Dog's Breath Stinks!

Many dog owners think that their pet's breath smells, and we usually accept it. But it's a myth that it's merely part of owning a dog. Part of this long-standing belief is due to our dogs and their daily habits of licking unsightly places, drinking water from the bathroom toilet, or our shocked shout outs while on walks "Hey, don't eat that!".

Of course, these canine habits do contribute to smelly breath, and it might make it a bit tougher to accept kisses from your dog. But foul-smelling breath is often a sign of other dental or health-related issues that may need our attention.


Here are a few things to watch out for that may be causing your dog's bad breath.

Dental or Gum Disease

This odor can be a symptom of progressive dental disease caused by the bacteria that live in the infected gum and dental tissue inside your dog's mouth. Another sign that your dog might have gum disease is not wanting to eat due to associated tooth pain.  

Eating Undesirable Things

Remember, when I mentioned, "Hey, don't eat that!"? Well, regrettably, dogs eat lots of things that aren't good for them or their breath. Things like dead animals, dirt, sticks, and even feces can cause horrible breath. 

Dog Food

Even the best food and treats can make your pup's breath smell objectionable. Although dry food may help keep the mouth cleaner, wet food is also beneficial due to the water content. It's always a good practice to speak to your vet about the best food for their diet and dental health. 

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease, decreased kidney function, or failure can create bad breath and make a dog's breath smell like ammonia. If your dog's breath has a similar chemical scent or other signs like increased thirst or frequent urination, its important to take them to your vet ASAP. 


Just like in humans with diabetes, uncontrolled blood sugars can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which can make a dog's breath smell sweet or almost fruity. Also, diabetes left unchecked can weaken the immune system and create increased bacterial growth in the mouth, which leads to bad breath and periodontal disease. 

Oral Tumors

The growth of oral tumors is often too quick for blood vessels to keep up, and consequently creates dead areas inside the mouth where bacteria flourishes and causes the offensive smell. If you see any lumps or discolorations in your dog's mouth, you should have them checked out by your vet. 


Treating Bad Breath

A visit to your vet is the first place to start to ensure your dog's health, and since dental hygiene is the #1 issue for dogs lousy breath, a dental exam will be necessary.

For your vet to do a complete exam and dental treatment, they will need to use general anesthesia. Just like humans, they will typically examine the entire mouth, take X-rays to check the teeth and roots for damage or decay and then remove plaque, clean and polish the teeth. 

After your dog's dental visit, it's a good idea to start an at-home brushing routine to prevent plaque and bacteria. Brushing is the best way to keep your dog's mouth healthy, but you will need a few things specifically made for your dog to brush.

  1. You'll need a toothbrush for larger dogs. Dog specific brushes have softer bristles, and longer handles can give you better reach.
  2. Finger brushes can work well for smaller dogs.
  3. Be sure to use dog-safe toothpaste. It comes in flavors dogs love like peanut butter or poultry. Never use human toothpaste; it includes ingredients that may harm your dog's stomach.



There are lots of products on the market like treats and dental chews, but most of the time, they don't beat a proper brushing — the problem with treats intended for treating your dog's teeth is they consume them way too fast to reap the dental benefits. Rawhide does have some sinew that acts like dental floss, but rawhide has other drawbacks and health concerns like choking and blockage or digestive tract irritation that outweigh the good they do for your pet's teeth.

So now that we know a bit more about what may be causing Fido's terrible breath, routine visits to your veterinarian are critical to keeping your pet healthy and brushing often will make them licking your face much more enjoyable for you both.

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