Ewww, Doggie Breath: What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs?

Small dog pants outside.

If your dog’s stinky breath gets in the way of your enjoyment of enthusiastic doggie kisses, snuggling on the couch, or any other up close and personal time, you’re not alone. “Dog breath” is almost universally disliked, but did you know that bad breath in dogs isn’t normal?

Stinky dog breath may be the result of a health problem, but the good news is that it’s (usually) easily rectified. Your team at Animal Medical Hospital & 24 Hour Urgent care has done the research into what causes doggie breath, and what you can do to correct it.

Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is dental disease. Plaque and tartar buildup lead to an overgrowth of the bacteria that causes bad breath — just like in humans! 

By age three, the majority of dogs have some form of dental disease and, if left untreated, it can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and even decreased lifespan. Brushing your pet’s teeth at home (at least three times per week) and bringing them to see us for regular dental checkups and professional cleanings is the key to pearly whites, fresher breath, and great health.

Other causes of bad breath in dogs include:

  • Diabetes – If you notice a sweet or fruity smell to your dog’s breath, contact us for an appointment as this may be a symptom of diabetes.
  • Kidney disease – Kidney disease can cause the breath to smell like ammonia (or urine). Contact us immediately if you notice this symptom, as kidney disease has the potential to be life-threatening.
  • Liver disease – One of the symptoms of liver disease is foul breath. Others include vomiting, loss of appetite, and a yellowish tinge to the gums. Dogs displaying signs of liver disease should see their veterinarian immediately or be taken to an emergency veterinary hospital.
  • Eating things they shouldn’t – Let’s face it, dogs can be pretty gross. Poop eating, whether it’s their own or another animal’s, is a common reason for unpleasant breath. Supervise your dog while outdoors, and put the litter box somewhere your dog can’t access it.

Preventing Doggie Breath

The easiest way to ward off bad breath in dogs is to grab that doggie toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste and commit to a daily brushing session. Your veterinarian will be happy to go over some tips and tricks with you, but keep in mind that patience and persistence are key. Many dogs learn to love (or at least tolerate) this important pet care routine.

Feeding your dog a high-quality, balanced diet and keeping their weight in check through portion control and exercise will help them to stay healthier overall and prevent many of the causes of bad breath.
For more information, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here for you!