Bad breath in dogs This article is verified by a vet

Bad breath in dogs

Bad dog breath is very unpleasant and a sign for underlying diseases in the mouth cavity. So that you and your canine friend can breathe easily again, we have summarised the most important information on the subject of bad breath in dogs for you.

What causes can trigger bad breath in dogs?

There can be several causes for dogs suffering from bad breath. The most common triggers include:

Poor dental hygiene

Not just us dog owners but our canine friends too need good dental hygiene. In order to prevent the formation of plaque, tartar and gum infections, occasionally cleaning the teeth with a special dog toothbrush is highly recommended.

The mechanical motions and special ingredients in dog toothpaste helps to remove slimy plaque. Since this consists of protein and sugars, it is a perfect source of nutrition for bacteria, which encourages bad breath. Dental treats are also a great way to maintain good teeth.

Low-quality dog food

Some foods have a very intense smell and taste. For instance, treats made from rumen or bovine scalp can cause repulsive bad breath in dogs, although this should vanish again after some time.

Another food-related cause of bad breath in dogs can be foods with low-quality ingredients or a high quantity of sugar, since this can encourage the growth of bacteria in the mouth cavity. These bacteria absorb sugar and then produce gases, which trigger the unpleasant smell.

Foreign bodies

It’s not uncommon with dogs to find foreign bodies impaled in the mucosa or stuck between the teeth, such as grains (small bristly plant parts) or wood splinters, which too are a focus for bacteria.

Thus, it’s advisable for the owner to regularly check their dog’s mouth. In most cases, you can carefully remove foreign bodies with your fingers or a pointed object. If this isn’t possible or the mucosa is already severely inflamed, your vet should take charge of removing it.

dog breath
If your dog has loose or missing teeth, bacteria can penetrate deeper into the mucosa and lead to bad breath.

Loose teeth

Dogs tend to suffer from loose teeth in two different life phases: once as puppies when the permanent teeth develop and then in old age.

If a tooth comes loose, germs can penetrate deeper into the oral mucosa. The resulting deep tooth gaps offer a perfect environment for bacteria, allowing them to quickly multiply in a short period and leading to bad breath.

Serious illnesses

Most dogs with bad breath are merely suffering from mild plaque or a gum infection. In rare cases, however, bad breath can be triggered by illnesses affecting other organ systems. These include, for instance:

  • Severe inflammations in the mouth and throat area (e.g. purulent tonsillitis)
  • Tumours in the mouth or throat area (e.g. squamous cell carcinoma)
  • Fungal infestation in the oral mucosa
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Metabolic diseases (e.g. diabetes)
  • Kidney or liver diseases

Diseases that trigger bad breath in dogs

Noticeably strong and long-lasting bad breath should be looked at by a vet. Before every mouth cavity examination, the vet measures your dog’s vital parameters (pulse, respiratory rate, state of the mucosa etc.), which allow them to assess its general state of health. In combination with the extensive owner interview, this allows the vet to rule out some causes of bad breath. Only then does a thorough mouth cavity examination take place.

First of all, the vet looks at the upper part of the mouth cavity. Along with the front tongue and gums, this includes the incisors, canines and premolars. If they cannot find anything unusual there, they also examine the rear part of the mouth cavity, throat and entrance to the trachea and oesophagus.

Examination under anaesthetic

An anaesthetic is generally necessary in order for your dog to stay as relaxed as possible and to protect the vet from its sharp teeth.

Once the anaesthetic has been administered, the vet can open your dog’s mouth wide and examine it calmly. They use a tongue depressor to press down the tongue. A laryngoscope is also used to rule out foreign bodies or changes in the throat area. This medical support aid comes with a lamp and allows the larynx and surrounding structures to be examined closely.

A X-ray of the mouth can also be carried out to diagnose deep-set dental diseases, whilst a tissue sample can be taken if tumourous changes are suspected. In some cases, blood is also taken from your dog and tested for inflammatory cells, amongst other things.

dog teeths brushed with toothbrush
Brushing your dog's teeth regularly helps prevent bad breath.

How can we prevent bad breath in dogs?

The best protection against bad breath is thorough dental hygiene with dental care products for dogs and regularly checking the teeth to ensure good dental health.

You can also use the following home remedies and tips so that your dog’s breath remains fresh:

Teeth-cleaning chews (e.g. root chews or dry food)
Special dog toothbrushes and toothpastes to combat putrid food remains
Low-sugar and high-quality food helps against bad breath.
Avoiding slimy wet food
Parsley should also help combat bad breath in dogs.

Franziska G., Veterinarian
Profilbild von Tierärztin Franziska Gütgeman mit Hund

At the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen I was extensively trained as a veterinarian and was able to gain experience in various fields such as small animal, large animal and exotic animal medicine as well as pharmacology, pathology and food hygiene. Since then, I have been working not only as a veterinary author, but also on my scientifically driven dissertation. My goal is to better protect animals from pathogenic bacterial organisms in the future. Besides my veterinary knowledge, I also share my own experiences as a happy dog owner and can thus understand and enlighten fears and problems as well as other important questions about animal health.

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