Bad Breath In Dogs – What Causes It And What To Do About it

Most of us are glad to see our dogs and when they cover us with sloppy kisses, normally it’s ok…except when your dog’s breath smells like an overturned garbage can!

Not only is bad breath in dogs unpleasant, it can be a sign that something is wrong. Let’s take a look at the causes of bad breath in dogs and what you can do to get rid of it.

The number one cause of bad breath in dogs is due to poor oral care and periodontal (gum) disease. Tartar and plaque, just as in humans, can build up on a dog’s teeth. This build up traps bacteria that can cause the bad breath. The bacteria can also cause infection, loosening of the teeth, and destruction of tissue.

In some dogs who like to chew, this removes some of the tartar, but dogs need regular tooth brusing and should have a dental exam and if necessary, cleaning done by the veterinarian. 

Another cause of bad breath in dogs is some dogs’ insistence in eating gross things! Dead animal remains, getting into the garbage, cat poop, their own poop and the poop of other dogs are all “snacks” that can understandably lead to disgusting breath.

Systemic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and liver disease can also cause bad breath. Diabetes can give your dog’s breath a fruity or sweet smell. Other symptoms of diabetes are increased urination and frequent drinking of water. Of course, if your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, you need to get your dog to the vet right away. In most cases, diabetes is treatable.

Kidney disease can give your dog breath that smells like urine. Liver disease gives dog’s really bad breath, and you may notice your dog’s gums have a yellow color, your dog may vomit and refuse to eat. Of course any of these symptoms should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian immediately.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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