Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Why do dogs have bad breath?

Bad breath in dogs is a common occurrence but can be a sign of health issues. Today, our Des Moines vets explain what might be causing your dog's bad breath and how you can help to treat and prevent it.

What causes bad breath in dogs?

Our dogs commonly have a bit of stinky breath which is why the term "dog breath" refers to something that smells a little offputting. While it's perfectly normal for your pup to have some smell on their breath from eating, playing with toys, and just generally living their lives, this smell can sometimes grow into a stink that repels all but the bravest pup parents.

While you may be tempted to just grin and bear the smell, the stink in your dog's bad breath is often a sign of an underlying health issue that is causing the smell. There are several possible causes of bad breath in your dog, but the most common are kidney disease, liver disease, and dental problems.

Why does my dog's breath smell so bad?

Your dog's breath can smell bad for a number of reasons, including:

Oral Health Issues

Oral health issues are the most common cause of bad breath in dogs, and they include everything from tooth decay to gum disease and oral infections. Regardless of the exact cause, bacteria and food debris accumulate in your dog's mouth over time if not regularly cleaned away, resulting in plaque and a persistent odor. 

If your dog's breath smells, it is most likely due to emerging oral health issues. However, if left unchecked, the odor will become much stronger, and your pet's oral health and wellbeing will continue to deteriorate. 

To ensure your dog's bad breath is not due to poor oral hygiene, take care of your pet's oral health and take them to the vet for regular professional dental cleanings.

Kidney Disease

If your pup's bad breath smells like feces or urine, it can be a sign that they have recently eaten poop (which is a whole other issue), but may also be a symptom of kidney issues. 

If your dog's kidneys aren't working properly to filter and process toxins and waste materials, their buildup in the pup's body may be contributing to the bad smell of their breath in addition to causing health problems! 

Liver Disease

If your dog has recently developed seriously bad breath and their new scent is accompanied by concerning symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, they may have a liver disease at the root cause of their symptoms. 

Treating Bad Breath in Dogs

The reason why your dog has bad breath will largely influence the kind of treatment they will require. Since bad breath is a sign of an underlying health condition rather than a health problem itself, it should dissipate once the underlying problem is successfully treated.

That being said, whenever you notice a change in the smell of your dog's breath you shouldn't assume its cause or that it is normal. Bring your pup to your vet as soon as possible for examination and diagnosis, since several causes of bad breath can be very serious health issues. 

Treatments at your veterinarian may include prescription medications, specialized diets, therapies, and even surgery to treat your pet's condition, depending on which part of their body is affected and the severity of the condition. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for the underlying health issue causing your pup's bad breath.

Home Treatment for Bad Breath 

While you cannot treat kidney or liver disease at home, one thing you can do to help treat or prevent bad breath in your dog is to make sure he or she receives the routine oral hygiene care they require every day, in addition to annual professional dental cleanings.

You should brush your dog's teeth every day, spending the time when they are young to help them get used to the experience of tooth brushing.

In addition to this, or if you are unable to train your dog to tolerate brushing, there is a wide variety of dental chews and dog food designed to promote oral health available.

Ask your vet what kinds of oral health products they recommend for helping your dog to stave off bad breath.

When it comes to preventing internal organ failure or disease affecting your dog's liver or kidneys, there are also a couple of easy measures you can take to help your pup avoid these causes of bad breath.

Some human medications, common houseplants, and foods that are safe for humans are extremely toxic to pets. Make a note of any substances in your home that may cause organ disease or failure in your dog and keep them as far away from him as possible.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Have you noticed your dog's breath getting increasingly worse? Contact our Des Moines vets to book an examination for your pup.

Welcoming Your Pets to Our Animal Hospital 

Des Moines Veterinary Hospital welcomes cats, dogs, fish, small mammals, and their owners to our clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Des Moines companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's appointment.

Contact Us

(206) 878-4111 Contact