This post is written by guest author, Nicole McCray.
Doggie snuggles and kisses are some of the best parts of being a dog parent… unless your best buddy has stinky breath. The good news is you don’t have to live with it. There’s plenty you can do to treat your dog’s bad breath… and it’s not something you should ignore.
Although occasional bad breath is probably harmless, chronic bad breath could be a symptom of an underlying health condition. There are many potential causes, and the earlier you act, the better off your dog will be.
Below you can find some possible causes for your dog’s bad breath, how it relates to his overall health, and what you can do to treat it and prevent it from coming back in the future.
Common Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs
Poor Oral Hygiene and Dental Disease
Poor oral hygiene and dental disease in dogs are the most common causes of chronic bad breath. If plaque, tartar, and bacteria are allowed to build up on your dog’s teeth and under the gumline, the result is bad breath, gingivitis, dental disease… and eventually, some serious health issues.
Dental disease can lead to infections in the mouth that can travel throughout your dog’s bloodstream and cause harm to vital organs like the kidneys, liver, and heart. Dental disease can also lead to unnecessary discomfort, pain, and eventually tooth loss.
As many as 80% of pets have at least mild disease by the time they’re three years old. But the good news is, it can be remedied with good oral hygiene after existing dental issues are treated by the vet.
Gross Eating Habits
It’s tough to think about, but sometimes our adorable little fur babies can be kind of disgusting. Dogs love to eat gross things, like garbage, partially decomposed animal remains, cat poop, and sometimes even their own poop or the poop of other dogs.
These disgusting snacking habits are another common cause of occasional bad breath, especially if you only notice it after your dog has had an opportunity to get into something gross.
Although this habit is usually mostly harmless, it could introduce bacteria and parasites into your dog’s system, as well as cause severe stomach upset.
Does your dog’s breath smell a bit sweet or fruity, rather than foul? If so, it’s time to call the vet.
Fruity, sweet-smelling breath is an early indicator of diabetes in dogs, which can become life-threatening if left untreated. Unexplained weight changes, a more frequent need to urinate, and drinking a lot more water than usual are other common signs of diabetes that dog parents should be on the lookout for.
If your dog’s foul breath smells like urine, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s been drinking pee. Breath that smells like urine is actually an early warning sign of kidney disease in dogs, and it’s cause for an immediate trip to the vet. Kidney disease is often a symptom of larger health issues, so it’s not something you want to ignore.
Liver disease causes the breath to smell musty and foul. Other symptoms may include a lack of interest in food, vomiting, and yellow-tinged gums and eyes. When the liver isn’t working properly, it’s not filtering dangerous toxins out of the body. Liver disease is serious and potentially fatal, so you should contact the vet immediately if you notice these symptoms.
Digestive Issues and Bowel Obstructions
Tummy troubles, such as gas, acid reflux, and bowel obstructions, could also be causing your dog’s bad breath. Sometimes, the gas and bad odors that are associated with digestion can come out through the mouth, instead of working their way out through the digestive system, which leads to stinky breath.
Bowel obstructions are commonly caused by eating things like bones, rawhides, and other things that can’t be properly digested. They can become life-threatening very quickly. If you notice that your dog is experiencing tummy troubles and seems to be straining to poop, call the vet to rule out a bowel obstruction right away.
How to Properly Care for Your Dog’s Teeth
The first step to treating and preventing your dog’s bad breath is providing good oral hygiene and correcting existing dental issues.
Establish a Consistent Brushing Routine
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly will go a long way toward keeping plaque and bacteria from building up on his teeth. If you don’t have time to brush his teeth every day, shoot for at least two or three times a week. Be sure to use pet-safe toothpaste because human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs.
Provide Dental Chews and Toys
Providing dental chews and toys can also help to prevent plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. Look for products that have earned the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. These products have passed rigorous testing for safety and effectiveness.
Provide Regular Dental Checkups and Professional Cleanings
If plaque, tartar, and bacteria are already built up on the teeth and under the gumline, you won’t be able to remove it with brushing and chews alone. And, even if you’re consistent about caring for your dog’s teeth at home, build-up can still occur over time, especially under the gumline and in the back of the mouth where you can’t see.
Regular dental checkups are a must for detecting any potential issues early and determining when it’s time for a professional cleaning. During a professional cleaning, your vet will remove plaque and tartar from under the gumline and on the back teeth, as well as address any broken or loose teeth. These steps are essential for treating and preventing bad breath and dental disease in dogs.
Other Tips for Preventing and Treating Bad Breath
Providing good oral hygiene is key for preventing and treating bad breath, but there are some other things you can do, as well. Be sure to keep temptations like garbage and cat litter out of reach and supervise your dog when he’s outside to keep him from snacking on stinky things in the yard.
Providing a high-quality, easily digestible diet is also very important. Probiotics can be very helpful for digestive health and keeping your dog’s immune system strong.
And, of course, a healthy, active lifestyle is crucial for preventing chronic disease and promoting overall health. Annual checkups are essential for potential health conditions early.
If your dog’s bad breath doesn’t improve despite your best efforts to provide good oral hygiene, it’s time to see the vet to rule out potential dental and health issues. Having a professional cleaning will also give your dog’s teeth a fresh start, making home care easier and more effective.