What Causes A Dog Bad Breath & How To Eliminate It?

Dog Bad Breath Feature Image

You can’t enjoy the hearty kisses from your fluffy friend when the dog’s breath stinks. Bad breath in a dog or pup is gross. And the saddest part is that dogs with bad breath are often in pain, especially when chewing.

Most pet owners will use mint to fix the bad breath situation. But the best solution is finding the underlying cause. Here are seven factors that cause dogs to have bad breath.

7 Reasons That Causes A Dog To Have Bad Breath

If your dog has bad breath, assessing if one of these conditions is responsible could help you find a solution.

1. Lack Of Oral Hygiene

Just as oral hygiene is important for fresh breath in humans, it is also vital for dogs.  Food residue reacts with existing bacteria in the mouth and saliva, forming plaque and bad bacteria.

The bad bacteria then cause decay and releases stinky sulfur compounds. And these are what cause bad breath in dogs. Continuous formation of plaque causes it to thicken and mineralize, forming tartar. Tartar attracts more plaque. It pushes the gum line up, enabling the growth of more bad bacteria.

The plaque and bacteria cause cavities and gingivitis, which help make the bad breath worse. Gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease, an infection of the gum tissues that hold the dog’s teeth. Fun fact – periodontitis affects up to 80% of dogs in the U.S [1] before hitting the age of two. It can destroy your dog’s teeth, gum, and jaw.    

2. Halitosis

Halitosis is when the dog’s oral cavity emits bad breath. A common cause of halitosis is a periodontal disease where decomposing food particles fill periodontal pockets. This is the space along the gum line that forms after gum disease destroys the tissue around the dog’s tooth.

A condition known as Trench Mouth can also cause halitosis. It causes gum inflammation, oral tumors, and ulceration. This results in tissue necrosis, the death of tissue lining the mouth.

Overuse of steroids, bad bacteria in the mouth, poor nutrition, and a decrease in the mouth’s defense to infection can cause Trench Mouth. Get a veterinarian to carry out an assessment of your dog’s health condition.

Front View Of A Lethargic Dog

3. Coprophagia

Dogs explore anything with a strong smell with their mouths. Though gross to humans, they end up eating the poop of animals. Puppies that smell their mother’s mouth after cleanup can also develop this habit known as coprophagia.

Poop sticks between the teeth, causing bad breath. It also causes other health problems, affecting the dog’s well being. Coprophagia is also a sign of a dog with malnutrition. Some dog food misses the right nutrition for wholesome health.

4. Gut Microbiomes Imbalance

Similar to humans, good bacteria are naturally part of the mouth and gut of dogs. They help maintain the dog’s gut health. The connection between the gut and the mouth means an imbalance of the gut bacteria can cause the dog bad breath.

Excessive bad bacteria in the gut overpower and outgrow the good bacteria. The bad bacteria then cause the release of smelly gas that the dog exhales as bad breath. Bad oral bacteria can also mix up with saliva, which the dog then swallows. The bad bacteria get into the gut, multiply, and trigger imbalance.

Cute Brown Pup

5. Kidney Failure

Dog’s kidneys help regulate salt and water in the body. They eliminate body waste and toxins through urine. Kidney disease or failure causes a dog’s breath to have a urine smell or fishy odor.

Your dog’s kidneys may develop health conditions if there is insufficient blood flow to these organs, infections, a urinary obstruction, or toxin ingestion. Chronic kidney failure in dogs is also associated with advanced dental disease. It occurs when bad bacteria from dental health issues get into the bloodstream and invade vital organs.  

6. Liver Failure

A dog with bad breath could have liver failure. The dog’s liver gets rid of toxins, processes substances like fats, deals with blood clotting, and plenty of other functions. It could fail after ingesting a toxic thing. 

It is probably a failed liver if the dog’s breath smells musty or like a dead animal. The dog may also vomit, have yellowish eyes tongue or gums, poor appetite, seizures, and bloody stool. It may also have fluid buildup in the belly. The bad dog breath results from the inability to filter out toxins, such as thiols. These toxins get into the lungs, and the dog breathes them out.

7. Diabetes

A sweet, fruity scent in your dog’s breath is not a good sign. It is a sign that your dog may be suffering from ketoacidosis, a severe complication of diabetes. Get your dog examined immediately.

Pets with diabetes show symptoms like excessive thirst, frequent urination, poor appetite, and cloudy eyes. Ketoacidosis occurs when the dog’s body is unable to process sugar for energy. The liver then produces ketone bodies to act as a source for fuel. The breakdown of ketones causes increased acidity in the dog’s body.

Man Checking Dog's Teeth

How To Treat A Dog’s Bad Breath?

Ask most people how to get rid of dog’s bad breath or a product that can help, and they will tell you that dog breath stinks naturally. But this is the wrong information. Stinking dog breath is easy to rid.

Identify the areas causing oral odors in your pet and apply one of these effective remedies:

1. Deep Dental Cleaning

Schedule teeth cleaning appointment at the vet’s office to eliminate plaque and tartar buildup. Deep clean your dog’s teeth yearly, but only if your dog can handle the cleaning procedure’s anesthesia. It will help promote dental health and prevent periodontal disease and halitosis.

2. Get A Check-up

A diagnosis by a DVM veterinarian will provide insight into whether gum disease, malnutrition, kidney disease, liver disease, or diabetes are the problem behind the stinky dog breath and the treatment options. If the vet can detect a health issue and treat any diseases, your dog will regain their nice breath fast.

Dog In Dental Clinic

3. Proper Oral Hygiene

You can eliminate most dogs’ bad breath with an oral hygiene routine. Use dog toothpaste or coconut oil to brush their teeth. Human toothpaste may contain xylitol, a sugar alcohol that prevents products from having a tarter taste.

Use the time you brush their teeth to bond. And if your pet wants nothing to do with tooth brushing, find an alternative way. For example, use a finger wrapped in a piece of gauze instead of a toothbrush. It will brush food from the teeth and ensure plaque does not build up.

4. Use Breath Fresheners

You can get breath freshener to eliminate their bad breath or go the DIY way with a home remedy. Three effective natural remedies are parsley, coconut oil, and organic apple cider vinegar.

Add half a teaspoonful of apple cider vinegar in your dog’s water or a bit of coconut oil to food and treats. As for parsley, use a teaspoon per 20 pounds of body weight. For example, an eighty-pound dog will need as much as four teaspoons in their drinking water, or find ways to add it to food.

5. Chewy Snacks

Food residue between the teeth could be the reason the dog’s breath is bad. You can avoid the formation of tartar and sulfur compounds by ensuring your dog chews crunchy home-made treats like carrots and apple slices.

Safe chewy toys also help but get the right size for your dog. A chewy toy will increase saliva production, which washes away bacteria from your dog’s teeth and ensures plaque does not build up.

Black Puppy Lying On The Floor In Blue Background

Tips To Preventing Bad Breath In Dogs

Regular checkups with the vet and a healthy diet will get your pet on its top health and prevent halitosis. Add foods rich in probiotics to the dog’s regular diet to increase good bacteria in the digestive tract. Go for the ones without sweeteners like xylitol in their ingredients.

Plain Greek-style yogurt is a good example of remedies that veterinarians recommend. It offers adequate probiotics for guts microbiomes balance. If the dog shows signs of lactose indigestion, use digestive enzymes or probiotics supplements. Get info from a vet on the best brand in the market and the right amount.   

Studies show that small breeds and dogs with short snouts easily get gum disease, plaque buildup, and tartar. Provide them with dental treats from a young age and proper oral health care. Find a way to avoid having dog or cat poop in the compound and keep used diapers in a sealed trash can.

Keep an eye on the types of food the dog or puppy eats. Most dog owners provide the wrong type of pet food, resulting in bad dog breath. Ensure that the types of dog foods and products you purchase are from trusted companies, and provide the dog with a lot of water. Prevent the dog from scavenging for stuff like bones in garbage. And treat them to meaty bones at least two times a week.

Cute Puppy Smiling

Frequently Asked Questions

Can stomach problems cause bad breath in dogs?

Yes, stomach troubles can induce bad dog breath if there is a gut microbiome imbalance. Dog food rich in probiotics and proper oral health care will keep their digestive system healthy and eliminate halitosis.

Can dehydration cause bad breath in dogs?

Yes, dehydration can trigger bad dog breath. Inadequate saliva causes breath odor, and water is necessary for saliva formation. Loss of skin elasticity is a sign of dehydration in canines, so is reduced drooling.  

Do dogs breath get worse with age?

Yes, bad dog breath gets worse with age due to increased vulnerability to tooth decay and infected gums. Provide consistent oral health care early in life to prevent plaque issues later. Give your pet a balanced diet, lots of water, safe chew toys, and oral care products from a trusted brand.


Proper oral hygiene habits prevent plaque and bad doggie breath. Adopt a wholesome diet and avoid things with artificial sugar. Schedule regular check-ups with the vet to keep your dog’s health checked and get their teeth assessed for gum disease. Always use reliable information or get expert tips from a vet on the oral care water additives and the best food for different breeds.