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Bad Breath in Dogs: The Causes and How to Treat It

Picture of Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

Does your pup greet you with a big kiss…and bad breath? Bad breath is a common issue for dogs. Dogs of all breeds and ages can have bad breath, and although it is typical, it is important to pay attention to it because not all bad breath is harmless. 

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, we are passionate about the health of our community’s pets. This is why we want to ensure dog owners are aware of the potential causes of bad breath so they know when the stench is more than just a gross smell. Let’s explore the causes of bad breath in dogs, as well as how to treat and prevent the issue.

What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs?

Bad breath in dogs, also known as halitosis, can be a result of various issues. In some cases, bad breath doesn’t pose any danger, while other times, bad breath can be a sign of an underlying issue.

Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs

  1. Type of Food – Sometimes, the cause of your dog’s bad breath is simply the type of food he is eating. Whether it’s wet or dry food, dog-approved foods can cause an unpleasant scent. In some cases, this can also be tied to gastrointestinal issues.
  2. Dental or Gum Disease – Much like humans, dogs can develop gum disease, or in more severe cases, periodontal disease. Over time, plaque and bacteria build up, leading to the deterioration of your dog’s gums and the unpleasant smell.
  3. Sinus Infections – If your dog develops an infection in his respiratory tract, the pus, often running from the nose to the back of the throat, builds up, leading to bad breath.
  4. Diabetes – Diabetes can affect the smell of your dog’s breath. However, it likely won’t be the same type of unpleasant smell that you are accustomed to. Generally, diabetes will cause a sweet or fruity smell.
  5. Consuming a Foreign Object or Toxic Substance – It’s no secret that many dogs will eat things they are not supposed to. If your dog happens to consume a foreign object or come into contact with a toxic substance, it will likely result in bad breath.
  6. Oral Tumors – In some instances, dogs develop oral tumors. These tumors will generally grow very rapidly. When the blood vessels in your dog’s mouth can’t keep up with the growth of the oral tumor, dead areas are created, leading to the potent smell.
  7. Kidney and Liver Disease – Malfunction of your dog’s kidney or liver can lead to bad breath. As these internal organs deteriorate, the bad breath will smell like urine, and is commonly accompanied by vomiting. 

When to See a Veterinarian

Overall, even though dogs are often known for their smelly breath, it is not something that should be ignored. When you initially start to notice a foul smell, be sure to monitor your dog’s behavior and take note of any usual occurrences, such as vomiting or frequent urination.

It is important to see a veterinarian sooner than later, because if the problem persists, your dog could suffer from irreversible effects. Also, if the problem worsens, the treatment could be more invasive than it would have been otherwise.

Treatment for Dogs with Bad Breath

Once you bring your dog to a veterinarian, the treatment for bad breath will vary depending on the cause. Seeing as a lack of dental care is the leading cause of bad breath in dogs, your veterinarian will likely recommend a proper dental cleaning. If the plaque buildup is severe or your dog has periodontal disease, your dog may need to undergo anesthetized dental cleaning. However, if your veterinarian determines that the cause of the bad breath is something other than halitosis, there is a strong possibility that surgery or medication will be required.

How to Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs

With lack of proper dental care being the primary cause of halitosis, one of the best ways to prevent bad breath, or at least make your dog’s breath as pleasant as possible, is to take measures to keep your dog’s mouth clean. By choosing healthy foods and getting consistent dental cleanings, the amount of bacteria and plaque buildup will be reduced. 

The smell of your dog’s breath can be used as a gauge to determine your dog’s overall health. So, along with dental care, it is important to maintain your dog’s health in all other aspects of his life, including his diet, exercise routine, and more.

Does Your Dog Have Bad Breath? Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic Can Help

If your dog has bad breath, don’t wait to see a veterinarian. With one simple visit, your veterinarian will be able to determine the cause of the halitosis and suggest treatment options. Schedule an appointment with our compassionate team today to see what we can do to help make your dog’s breath more pleasant.

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Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic is seeking an enthusiastic and caring veterinarian to work relief, part-time or full-time in our general practice. PVC is a full-service, 3+ doctor, small-animal veterinary hospital. We have established an excellent reputation for developing lasting relationships with our clients and for providing compassionate and quality care to our patients.