Bad Breath in Dogs: 3 Causes And How to Fix Them

Alex Seilis
Bad Breath in Dogs

Bad breath in dogs can make it unpleasant to show your dog affection. Coming in close to greet him or give him a kiss – something you normally look forward to – can soon become uninviting. And if that’s your reaction, it’s likely that guests will notice the stinky dog breath too, which can be embarrassing. 

But aside from simple awkwardness, there are other reasons to pay attention to your dog’s breath. For humans, our oral health can sometimes give us clues into our overall health. And dogs are no different. Read on to discover what your dog’s bad breath might be telling you. 

What’s the Cause Of Bad Breath In Dogs? 

It’s no surprise that bad breath in dogs is often the result of an oral or dental health problem.. But there are other possible culprits too. 

Here are the three most common causes of stinky dog breath:

1. Oral Health And Dental Hygiene

If you’ve ever been lazy when it comes to brushing your own teeth, you know that tartar and plaque can build up over time, and eventually cause bad breath. If you don’t regularly brush your dog’s teeth, this accumulation of plaque will likely happen to your dog's teeth as well, plaque build up is one of the main causes of bad breath in dogs.

Bad breath is a helpful symptom to watch out for, because if you catch it early enough and respond appropriately, you can prevent more significant oral health problems from developing. Bad breath from poor dental hygiene often precedes periodontal disease or gum disease. This is when the gums become inflamed from a lack of brushing or even infection. One of the most common symptoms is bad breath. If left untreated, the condition can worsen and lead to gum disease, cavities and tooth loss. 

2. Unhealthy Gut

Your dog's stinky breath can also come from an unhealthy gut. Food can be a factor, especially if your dog eats a high carbohydrate, highly processed diet. Dogs may also have trouble digesting and processing certain foods, which can cause stinky breath and digestive pain. When the gut is imbalanced for long periods of time, bad bacteria take over … and bring bad breath along with them as a symptom.  

The good news is that there are some specific strategies to restore dog gut health. As we’ll see below, one strategy is to use probiotics, which may help not just with gut health but with your dog’s dental health too.   

3. Illness 

Is bad breath in dogs a sign of illness? Sometimes. In addition to oral disorders  like gingivitis and gum disease, bad breath can also be a symptom of conditions like kidney or liver disease.

If your dog’s breath smells like urine, this can be one of the warning signs of kidney disease. Kidney disease is serious, so if your dog’s breath smells like urine or if other symptoms lead you to suspect he may have kidney disease, you should visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. 

If your dog has bad breath, and is also vomiting, has tinged yellow gums, and displays a lack of appetite, he may have liver disease. Just like kidney disease, liver disease is a serious condition. So if you suspect your dog has it, it’s critical that you consult with your veterinarian right away. 

3 Treatment Options for Stinky Dog Breath

So what can you do about that stinky dog breath? Luckily there are a few solutions you can implement right at home. 

1. Diet 

A better diet is the simplest way to improve your dog’s dental health and gut health. Most dogs benefit from eliminating grains and starchy foods from their diets. Feeding a raw diet and incorporating foods like bone broth are other ways to build your dog’s gut health over time and prevent stinky breath at the source.

Foods like raw meaty bones also help keep your dogs teeth and gums healthy. The action of chewing on bones helps remove tartar and plaque from the teeth, and stimulates healthy gum tissue. 

2. Homemade Toothpaste

Another strategy is to brush your dog’s teeth more often with homemade toothpaste.

Caution: Never use human toothpaste for your dog! Many human toothpastes contain xylitol, which is an artificial sweetener that is toxic to dogs. Fluoride, another common ingredient, is a neurotoxin that can (ironically) damage teeth. 

Instead, you should use a natural homemade dog toothpaste for bad breath. This not only gives you more control over the ingredients your dog is swallowing, but it’s also a more budget-friendly option compared to what you’ll pay for high quality organic dog toothpaste. 

There are a bunch of different natural dog toothpaste recipes, but the base ingredients will be the same: 

  • A liquid or oil such as MCT, olive, avocado or hempseed or ghee or aloe vera gel (without aloin) 
  • An exfoliate like natural baking soda or sea salt
  • Flavorings like natural broth 
  • Herbs like mint, parsley or calendula
  • Calendula tincture
  • Probiotic powder
  • Extras like kelp, turmeric or cinnamon powder

3. Probiotics 

Probiotics are the good bacteria in your dog’s gut. But they’re responsible for much more than that, and are linked to everything from mood to skin health.  

Probiotics are the best supplement you can give your dog to support his gut health and oral health. But not all probiotics are created equal. 

For gut health, look for these strains and CFU in your dog’s probiotics …: 

  • Saccharomyces boulardii or Bacillus subtilis should be about 1 billion CFU (colony forming units). 
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium probiotics should be at least 30 billion CFU.

Specifically for oral health, a Canadian study found that Lactobacillus species of probiotics were more likely to colonize on the teeth and in plaque than Bifidobacterium species. Other studies show that the populations of some species of Lactobacillus were larger in healthy people compared to those with dental disease.

Learn more about probiotics and the role they play in dog gut health

What’s the Best Thing to Feed Dogs with Bad Breath?

Finally, there are also a few foods you can feed your dog to help with his bad breath. 

These foods are rich sources of probiotics:

Fermented vegetables – You can either buy these organic, or ferment them yourself. Add them to your dog’s food daily or feed as a snack. But start slowly: work up to 1 tsp per 15 lbs of body weight. 

Kefir – Buy organic (make sure it’s unsweetened!) or make your own. To avoid dairy intolerances, you can also use water to make kefir. Give 1/4 cup per 25 lbs of body weight daily.

You can also consider giving your dog prebiotics, which are the “food” that probiotics feed on. Bananas and dandelion greens are great prebiotic sources for dogs. 

Bottom Line 

Hopefully, your dog’s bad breath just means he needs more frequent brushing. Still, bad breath is important to pay attention to, as it can indicate other problems like gum disease, gut issues, or illnesses like kidney and liver disease. This is one of those cases where the best offense is a good defense. Regular brushing with natural homemade toothpaste and feeding a healthy raw diet will do wonders to keep your dog’s teeth healthy and prevent his breath from stinking. 

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© 2024, Four Leaf Rover - The content on this website is not meant to replace veterinary advice. Please support the hard working holistic vets who make this information possible. To find a holistic or homeopathic vet near you or to find one who will do phone consultations, visit The Academy Of Veterinary Homeopathy.