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Bad Breath in Dogs: Causes & Remedies

Issues affecting the oral health of your pet can lead to a stench like no other, but there are other potential causes as well. Our Toledo vets share some of the most common causes of bad breath in dogs and what can be done to treat the smell coming from their mouth.

Why do dogs have bad breath?

Do you avoid getting kisses from your pup? Maybe you've even found yourself apologizing to guests for your dog's bad breath or just generally wondering 'Why does my dog's breath smell so bad?'

Stinky dog breath is something we can expect from our canine companions–to an extent. While it's normal for your pooch to have some smell on their breath from playing with toys, eating and just living their normal doggy lives, this smell can sometimes develop into a stench that repels all but the most seasoned, bravest pup parents.

That said, when it comes to our four-legged friends, bad breath is no laughing matter, as it can indicate an underlying health issue. So, while you may be tempted to just ignore it or chalk it up to your dog aging, it's important to take your pooch to see your vet if chronic bad breath is becoming a problem.

So what causes bad breath in dogs? Here are some of the usual culprits:

Dental Disease

Oral health issues are the most common culprit of bad breath in dogs. Problems that may be causing your pooch's fragrant breath include oral infections, tooth decay, and gum disease. Regardless of the precise cause, food debris and bacteria accumulate over time in your pup's mouth if not regularly cleaned away, resulting in plaque and a persistent odor.

If you are just beginning to notice a consistent yet faint smell coming from your dog's breath then they might be developing dental disease or other oral health issues. If they are left unchecked, the smell will become much stronger and your pet's oral health and wellbeing will continue to decline.

Liver Disease

Did your dog's smelly breath seemingly come out of nowhere? If symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting accompany the new scent, liver disease may be the underlying cause of their symptoms.

Kidney Disease

If you are noticing the smell of urine or feces on your dog's breath, this may be a sign that they have eaten poop recently (another common problem that your vet should investigate) or a symptom of kidney issues. If your dog's kidneys aren't functioning properly, they will be unable to filter and process toxins and waste materials. This can cause a buildup of waste products in your dog's body, which is not only dangerous but can lead to a decline in their overall health along with smelly breath.

What can my vet do to treat stinky dog breath?

If smelly breath is your dog's new normal then you should contact your vet to schedule a dental exam and cleaning.

Treatment for your dog's bad breath will depend upon the underlying cause of the condition. That said, once your pooch has been successfully treated for the underlying health issue their bad breath should begin to clear up.

When there is a drastic change in your dog's breath, especially if your pooch is older, it's important to see your vet to get a diagnosis as early as possible. Treatments are typically the most successful and easiest when conditions are caught in the early stages.

Your vet may make treatment recommendations such as prescription medications, specialized diets, therapies, and even surgeries depending on the cause and severity of the underlying condition.

How can I treat my dog's smelly breath at home?

While you aren't able to diagnose and treat kidney or liver disease at home, one way you can help to treat or prevent bad breath in your dog is ensuring your pup gets the routine oral hygiene care they need every day in addition to annual professional dental cleanings.

Our vets recommend that while your canine companion is still a young puppy you should begin brushing their teeth. This may sound crazy but spending the time when they are young to help them get used to the experience of tooth brushing can help to avoid more serious dental health issues when they are older.

If you aren't able to train your pup to tolerate having their teeth brushed there are a wide variety of dental chews and dog foods formulated to promote good oral health. Ask your vet about these and other oral health solutions for your dog.

When it comes to preventing internal organ damage and disease that could affect your dog's liver or kidneys, there are also a couple of easy measures you can take.

  • Make sure to keep human medications out of your dog's reach. Many are toxic to pets and can lead to severe organ damage.
  • Ensure that any houseplants or foods within your pup's reach are safe for dogs. Foods such as raisins and chocolate can be deadly for our canine companions, and countless houseplants can be problematic for your pup's health.
  • Keep known toxins locked up such as antifreeze which can lead to severe and sudden organ failure in dogs.

If you witness your dog eat a toxic plant or substance, or they are displaying signs of medical distress like vomiting, diarrhea, and trouble breathing, please reach out to the nearest emergency animal hospital right away.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If your dog's breath is smelling less than pleasant, please contact our Toledo vets to schedule a dental exam and cleaning right away. 

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Shoreland Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our veterinary team is passionate about the health of Toledo pets and is looking forward to meeting you and your furry friend. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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