Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Pet Expert: Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Bad?

As dog owners, we all love spending quality time with our best four-legged friends. However, when we come face to face with our dog and are hit with a pungent whiff of bad doggy breath, it makes it difficult to enjoy those special up close and personal moments.

Bad breath is very common in dogs of all ages, sizes, and breeds. In fact, it is believed that over half of all dogs have ongoing issues with bad breath. This can be caused by a number of things, some of which are perfectly normal, and others which may require urgent veterinary care. It’s important to determine the cause for your dog’s bad breath as early as possible, to ensure it isn’t a sign of a more serious health condition.

Oral Health

The most common reason for bad breath, or halitosis, in dogs is poor oral hygiene. Substandard dental care in dogs can range from gingivitis, to dental decay, to full blown infections of the mouth, tooth and bone loss, and much more.

Tooth decay is common in dogs, just as it is in humans, and can cause painful abscesses, and can possibly lead to further health issues like infections entering the bloodstream. Gum disease, or periodontitis, is also common in domesticated dogs, and is considered to be more serious than tooth decay. Oral infections can occur for many reasons, and should be evaluated by a veterinarian right away.

According to the Department of Clinical Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 80-89% of dogs over the age of three have some form of periodontal disease.

The mouth is the gateway to our overall health and wellness, so it’s important to maintain proper care of your pet’s oral hygiene. Whether it’s human or animal, our mouths are brimming with bacteria, and while most are harmless, the mouth leads to our digestive and respiratory tracts, and if certain harmful bacteria were to make their way to these areas, it can seriously influence our quality of life.

The first step in improving bad dog breath is through consistent and thorough cleaning of teeth and gums. Bacteria, tartar, plaque, and food debris can build up over time, creating a persistent bad smell.

The best way to keep your pooch’s mouth clean is by brushing their teeth. Canine-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste help to remove matter from the teeth, but for some dogs it may take some time and training to get used to. The second best option for improving bad doggy breath is by introducing an enzymatic food or water additive. These supplements will help to remove plaque and tartar and provide extra dental protection from further build up.

Dental specific foods and treats are a popular choice for removing plaque and tartar buildup, however they may not clean the teeth and gums as well as advertised without other complementary measures (like brushing). Mint-flavoured dental treats are particularly popular, as they help to temporarily freshen breath.

While each of these remedies offer their unique standalone benefits, the best results are often achieved when combining complementary dental remedies. Consider combining solutions, like brushing teeth daily and using a dental water additive or dental treat, for example.


Digestive gasses, also known as burping, can also be a cause for bad breath in dogs. The most common type of stinky burp in canines is often referred to as a ‘sulfur burp’, and often happens after a protein-rich meal. Dogs most susceptible to these types of burps include those fed an exclusively raw diet, and may also be caused by certain medications.

Fishy-smelling burps or burps that smell like feces are commonly caused by periodontal disease. This is due to the bacteria. Tartar and plaque are made from 80-90% bacteria, so without proper dental care, this buildup will contribute to a smellier mouth.

Serious Illness

In less common cases, if your dog’s bad breath smells metallic-like, it may be due to a potentially fatal condition, kidney disease. When a dog’s kidneys begin to fail, they lose the ability to properly filter out toxins. This can lead to a buildup of waste materials in the body that can cause bad breath. If your dog is also experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, kidney disease could be to blame. If your dog’s breath has a metallic-like odour, speak with your veterinarian immediately as kidney disease is fatal if not treated early enough.

For the majority of dogs, solving bad breath is a relatively simple process, it just takes a little bit of knowledge, and a lot of consistency. Our dog’s mouth will only remain as clean as the efforts of their primary caregivers. Speak with your veterinarian or pet health professional for the best course of action for your dog.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon is certified in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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