Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell?


Why does my dog’s breath smell? Oral health is vital to our dog’s overall health. Learn several reasons why your dog’s breath may smell and what to do about it!

by Megan McCorkle RVT

We all know that great feeling after we have left the dentist and had our routine teeth cleaning. Our teeth and our breath are so fresh – at least for the next few hours! When is the last time your dog’s teeth were brushed or flossed? Did you know that caring for your pets’ teeth is just as important for his overall health as our oral care is to our health?

When is the last time your dog had a checkup to evaluate his dental health? Not a vet visit for an ear infection where the doctor glances and reports that the teeth are fine. A true professional dental scaling, probing, dental x rays and oral exam. Did you even know that “doggie dentistry” is actually a thing? A rather imperative thing if you ask most veterinary professionals.


Now let’s be honest- how many of us are not a fan of our dog panting in our faces let alone the same room because of their bad “doggie breath”?? Are you nodding your head or raising your hand? I have been there myself as a veterinary professional with my own dogs. The struggle is real and smelly!

Most dogs have breath that is not pleasant (We know they lick and eat things the bravest human would never dream of!) but; it’s fairly inoffensive. “Doggie breath” is not synonymous with “bad breath”. Some canine companions will develop bad breath somewhere between slightly funky to downright stomach churning. Have you ever wondered the cause?

There are three fairly common reasons for bad breath in dogs.

Dental problems are the leading cause of bad breath in our furry friends.

Dental problems can stem from plaque and tartar caused from bacteria which can cause tooth decay. Gingivitis is an inflammatory response to the bacteria again leading to damage to the integrity of the tooth. Finally, rotten or broken teeth allow for an additional influx of bacteria and immune response to create a source of chronic pain for our pets.

Dental disease is the number one disease seen in companion animals. According to the research over 80 % of cats and dogs have dental disease as early as 3 years of age!

Dental disease is a disease of more than just bacteria- it’s a disease of persistent pain in animals and can lead to destruction of other body systems. Managing their dental health is so important to the overall health and happiness of our furry companions.

Different kinds of smells can be a sign of illness.

If your stomach isn’t curling but you notice a rather sweet smell coming from your dog’s mouth- this could indicate metabolic changes including diabetes. Seeking your veterinarians help ASAP is important to investigate this and other symptoms they might be having.

If you get a whiff of an ammonia-like odor from your dogs’ oral cavity this should immediately be addressed by your veterinarian to identify any concerns for kidney or liver problems in your pet.

Could there be another reason for bad breath?

Finally, we must rule out a foreign object in the mouth or an oral mass that could be at the root of the smell. In private practice as a Licensed Veterinary Technician; I have seen a number of cases where a stick or bone was stuck in the roof of the mouth or in the throat. My own personal pet had a small mass on his tonsil that caused an odor prompting me to investigate. After surgical removal of the mass and dental cleaning the odor dissipated leaving him with regular “doggie breath”.

All of these reasons should prompt us to respect our furry friends enough to investigate any changes to their breath and work with our veterinarian to address the root cause. We know that bacteria can cause damage to the surrounding tooth structures and can affect the overall integrity of the tooth leading to chronic pain or bacteria entering the bloodstream and reeking even more havoc on our delicate canine companions.

Here are three easy ways to stay ahead of canine “bad breath”:

1. Regular checkups for their oral health

2. Schedule professional dental cleanings at the recommendation of your veterinarian during early signs of dental disease.

3. Home dental care by teeth brushing, dental chews, and water additives.

Have you ever had the slightest tooth ache? It can be excruciating, so consider the next time you turn your dog away because of his “bad breath” asking yourself if the smell is more painful to you or to him? Contact your veterinarian to help your best friend elevate their bad breath, chronic pain, or additional health concerns.


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