Common Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs

Causes of doggy breath

Bad breath in dogs goes farther than just being a problem that’s stinky and gross; it could be a red flag of a serious health condition. A foul mouth odor is an early symptom of tooth and gum problems, but it could also be something that goes beyond your pet’s mouth. It could be a sign of a serious illness. Knowing the possible causes of bad breath in dogs will give you an idea about what you can do to prevent it and when to seek prompt veterinary attention. Keep reading to learn more!

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What’s Causing Your Dog’s Bad Breath?

More than 75% of dogs get gum disease by middle age. One survey among pet owners shows that although 57% admit that their dog has bad breath, only 6% make a dental appointment with their veterinarian to address the problem.

Sometimes, an undesirable odor from your dog’s mouth may be caused by food that he has eaten recently. In this case, however, the odor usually goes away in time or when you brush your pet’s teeth. But there are instances in which bad breath persists and is oftentimes accompanied by other signs of illness. This time, it’s more than just ‘doggie breath’. This means you should make an appointment with your vet to have your pet’s mouth checked.

1. Poor Oral Hygiene and Gum Disease

Dogs with poor oral hygiene have higher risks of developing tooth and gum problems, which are the most common causes of bad breath in dogs. Without regular tooth brushing and mouth examination at home, plaque and tartar can accumulate in the teeth and gums to create a favorable environment for bad breath-causing bacteria to thrive. Over time, poor oral hygiene can pave the way for periodontal (gum) disease.

As plaque and tartar continue to accumulate, gums are pushed away from the teeth, creating new areas where bad bacteria can grow. When this happens, your dog’s gums can become inflamed and a variety of other issues can also develop, including secondary bacterial infection, tooth cavities, destruction of associated tissues, loose teeth, tooth loss, etc. Advanced cases of tooth and gum problems can lead to an extremely offensive mouth odor.

2. Worrisome “Food” Choices

Does your dog have gross eating habits? The scavenging instincts of dogs can be quite strong, and they’ll surely find the garbage or the cat’s litter box irresistible. This is not only gross but it’s also unhygienic. Parasites and pathogens could be present in your cat’s poop and cause your dog to become ill. If you have cats in the household, make sure that the litter box is inaccessible to your dog.

Some dogs exhibit coprophagia, a condition in which dogs eat their own poop or that of other dogs. Just like raiding the litter box, this behavior could increase your dog’s exposure to parasites and illness, not to mention the stinky breath it may cause.

Dogs with pica love eating items that are not considered food. Sticks, cloth, stones, and a whole lot of other items can get stuck in a dog’s mouth or teeth and cause foul breath.

Some dogs also like to eat disgusting stuff like decaying organic matter and animals that have been long dead and are decomposing. This can also give your dog a very disgusting mouth odor.

3. Diabetes

Dogs with diabetes have a sweet or fruity breath that is associated with diabetic ketoacidosis. If you notice your dog’s breath has a sweet smell, you should make an appointment with your vet sooner rather than later. Diabetes in dogs is a serious health issue that can be effectively managed if spotted early.

Diabetes that remains uncontrolled can also suppress the dog’s immune system which can allow the bacteria to multiply and thrive in the mouth.

4. Kidney Disease

One of the warning signs of kidney disease in dogs is a breath that smells like urine. Any defect in kidney function can give a dog’s breath an ammonia-like odor. If a dog’s kidneys are unable to efficiently perform their function, metabolic waste products can build up in the blood circulation and can be reflected in the breath of affected dogs. Early symptoms of kidney disease should never be ignored for it could indicate a larger and more serious health issue.

5. Liver Disease

Bad breath that’s accompanied by vomiting and diarrhea, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged gums may indicate the presence of a liver problem.

6. Tumors in the Mouth

Abnormal growths in the mouth are also possible causes of bad breath in dogs. Oral tumors can cause mouth tissues to die which can create areas for bacterial growth. It’s often the population of bad bacteria that is causing the foul odor.

Any mass or discoloration in your pet’s mouth that wasn’t there before should be brought to the attention of your vet.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Bad Breath

The treatment of foul-smelling doggie breath depends on the underlying cause.

If a tooth and/or gum problem is the cause of your pet’s bad breath, professional dental attention may be needed. After a thorough exam, your vet may run blood work to check if your dog can handle general anesthesia during a dental cleaning procedure. Other tests may also be performed to rule out any other potential causes of your dog’s foul mouth odor. If there are loose or damaged teeth, your vet will determine if there is a need to extract the tooth or if a root canal is a viable option.

If your dog’s indiscriminate eating habits are to blame for the unpleasant mouth odor, measures should be taken to secure the trash and make the garbage bins inaccessible. Limiting your dog’s unsupervised outdoor time can also prevent him from having access to roadkill or other forms of decaying organic matter. Cleaning up after your dog and proper disposal of cat litter are also important hygienic measures to observe.

If your dog’s bad breath is caused by systemic illness such as diabetes, kidney, or liver disease, treatment of the primary cause is necessary for your dog’s bad breath to go away.

Tips to Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs

There are several ways to prevent bad breath in dogs. On top of the list is regular brushing of your dog’s teeth. This can significantly reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Your dog may need some training to accept and tolerate his teeth being brushed. Use only dog toothpaste as toothpaste formulated for people may contain ingredients that can cause digestive upset or even toxicity in dogs.

Appropriate chew toys and dental treats can help your dog take care of his teeth naturally. These products exert a grazing action on the teeth and gums and remove any plaque and tartar that has accumulated.

Small dog breeds generally require more dental care compared to large breeds because their overcrowded teeth and smaller mouths are more prone to periodontal disease.

A good home dental regimen and annual dental examinations are the gold standards in protecting your pet’s dental and overall health.

Read more:

Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

How to Examine Your Pet at Home: A Step-By-Step Guide

Signs of Pain in Dogs

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