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Written by Vet Tech

Bad Breath In Dogs – Signs, Diseases, and Dental Health

Amber LaRock
Written by: Amber LaRock, Vet Tech
Does your dog have bad breath? That is the sign of unhealthy mouth or underlying health issues. Check this article to learn what bad breath in dogs means.

When it comes to odors in dogs, bad breath is at the top of the list of the worst canine smells. While bad breath in your dog not only disturbs your daily cuddle sessions, it can also point to a more serious dental problem that’s brewing.

In this article, we’ll dive into the basics of bad breath in dogs, dental disease, and the ways you can improve your furry friend’s foul breath.

Why Do Some Dogs Have Bad Breath?

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is due to dental disease or poor dental hygiene. Since dental hygiene is still a fairly new concept in pet ownership, some dog owners may be unaware of how to properly care for their dog’s teeth.

Unlike us, dogs don’t have the ability to follow through on twice-daily toothbrushing to keep their breath minty fresh. Due to this, they are more susceptible to dental disease and the foul breath that comes along with it.

When we skip our daily dental routine, we experience a build-up of debris on our teeth.

Dogs are no different, and this debris will continue to build upon their teeth as time passes. When their dental care is neglected for long periods of time, this leads to the foul breath we dread in our pets.

While there are of course other possible causes of bad breath in dogs, dental disease is the number one reason behind the odor.

What Are Some Signs Of Dental Disease In Dogs?

Since our dogs are so proficient at hiding their pain, it can be tough to know when they are struggling with dental pain.

The signs of dental disease can be subtle, so it’s important to educate yourself on things to look for that indicate any mouth pain in your furry friend. Some signs of dental disease in dogs include:

  • Foul breath
  • Red or inflamed gums
  • Blood in the water bowl or on their toys
  • Difficulty eating
  • Chewing on one side of their mouth
  • Decline in appetite
  • Sensitivity when their face is touched
  • Crying out when they are pet around their face or mouth
  • Drooling
  • Facial swelling
  • Loose teeth or teeth falling out

There are multiple stages of dental disease in dogs, so understanding the signs of this condition can help you be aware of it in the earliest stages.

By doing this you can help to prevent any unnecessary pain for your pup, and help to prevent any tooth loss.

Why Is Dental Health So Important For Dogs?

Unfortunately, dental health is not a well-known topic among dog owners just yet. Some pet owners truly aren’t aware of the dental dangers our pets face, and how to prevent dental complications such as the bad breath.

Though bad breath is an inconvenient problem in dogs, their dental health actually affects much more than just their breath.

Some problems that can arise from neglecting their oral health include:

1. Pain

The most upsetting part of dental disease is the intense pain that can be brought along with it. Since our pets can’t speak to us, we usually aren’t aware of their aches and pains until they become severe.

Some tooth pain can become so painful for our pups, that eating can turn into a challenge.

2. Organ Complications

When dogs suffer from severe dental disease, their mouths are filled with bacteria. Once the bacteria from the plaque enters their bloodstream, it can spread to vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

This bacteria can severely damage their organs, and lead to complications in the future.

3. Infections

Dental disease can become so severe, that it begins to create infections and abscesses in a pup’s mouth. Once these infections begin to brew, they can cause facial swelling, pain, and an overall ill-feeling.

4. Tooth Loss

When plaque is present on your furry friend’s teeth for a long period of time, it can begin to affect the strength of the tooth. When this happens, some teeth will break, or even fall out.

5. Bad Breath

Severe dental disease can cause extremely foul breath in our canine companions. Bad breath can make it challenging to enjoy our time with our furry friends!

Are There Other Causes Of Bad Breath In Dogs?

While dental disease is the most common factor behind bad breath in dogs, there are other conditions that can cause this stench. Some other causes of bad breath in dogs include:

1. Diabetes

Diabetes is known to cause a change in your dog’s breath during complications, or upon initial diagnosis, if the disease is unmanaged.

This smell is often described as sweet or fruity, or even similar to acetone in some situations. If you ever notice an abrupt change in your dog’s breath, it’s time to visit your vet.

2. Dietary Habits

Dogs can be gross, and they are known to get into things that can lead to foul breath. If you fear that your dog recently got into the trash, consumed their own waste, or other stinky objects, this may be the cause of their bad breath.

3. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is a serious threat to your dog’s health and is often not diagnosed until its later stages.

In complications of the kidney, disease dogs can begin to experience mouth ulcers, which can cause a foul odor coming from your dog’s mouth. If you notice other changes in your pup along with bad breath, it’s time to visit your vet.

4. Liver Disease

Similar to kidney disease, the foul breath can be a symptom of complications in the disease. Whether this is due to vomiting, change in diet, or any other cause as a result of liver disease, it’s best to see your vet if their bad breath is accompanied by any other decline in health.

5. Oral Foreign Body

Dogs are known to chew on things they shouldn’t, and are known to fall victim to objects that can become stuck in their gums or teeth because of it.

When objects become trapped in your dog’s mouth, this can lead to a foul odor over time. If your dog is experiencing bad breath along with signs of mouth discomfort, it’s best to visit your vet.

How Can You Improve Your Dog’s Bad Breath?

1. Visit Your Vet

If your dog is ever experiencing bad breath, it’s important to visit your vet before you assume a cause. Your vet can get to the bottom of their foul breath and help you understand the best plan of action to help resolve the issue.

Since bad breath can point to serious health conditions in some situations, it’s important to rule out any serious causes before you automatically assume it’s due to dental disease.

2. Veterinary Dental Cleaning

If your dog’s bad breath is due to dental disease, they will likely recommend an official dental cleaning. This involves sedating your pup and chipping away at the tartar that threatens their dental health, leading to an improvement in their bad breath.

Dental cleanings can help to improve your dog’s dental health, save their teeth from serious damage, and prevent bacteria from entering their system and affecting other body systems.

3. Tooth Brushing

If your dog’s foul breath is indeed due to their dental hygiene, it’s time to introduce an oral hygiene routine. Dogs can greatly benefit from daily teeth cleaning just as we can, and can help to prevent tartar build-up.

4. Dental Chews

Dog dental chews are like a workout for your furry friend’s teeth. The act of chewing has been proven to significantly reduce the build-up of plaque on their teeth, which lowers their chances of suffering from dental disease and dental complications.

Some dental chews can also instantly improve their breath, so it can be similar to chewing a stick of gum.

Good to know: Know that bad breath is most common reason on why puppies might smell


While bad breath in dogs can seem like a minor problem, it can be linked to some serious health complications in your furry friend.

Make sure to take your dog’s foul breath seriously, and you can stay on top of their dental and overall health!