Do you find that you recoil from your dog when they come in for a cuddle or apologize to guests for the smell? Bad breath is quite common in our canine companions — especially as they grow older — and can be a sign of serious health issues in your dog. Here, our Goleta vets explain what might be causing your dog's bad breath and how you can help to treat or even prevent it.
What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs?
There is a reason 'dog breath is such a common saying when describing something a little off-putting, and that is that often our dogs have a little bit of bad breath. While it's perfectly normal for your dog 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 dog parents.
And while you may be tempted to just grin and bear the smell, more often than not the stink in your dog's bad breath is a sign of an underlying health issue that is causing the smell.
There are several different possible causes of bad breath in your dog, but the most common are kidney disease, liver disease, and oral health issues.
If your dog's bad breath smells like feces or urine, it may be a sign that they have recently eaten poop (which is something you should look into on its own) or 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 dog's body may be contributing to the bad smell of their breath on top of harming your dog's health!
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.
Oral Health Issues
The most common cause of bad breath in dogs, oral health issues is an umbrella term including health issues ranging from tooth decay to gum disease and oral infections. Regardless of the precise cause, bacteria and food debris build up over time in your dog's mouth if not regularly cleaned away, creating plaque and a persistent smell.
If your dog's breath smells a little bit, it is likely caused by emerging oral health issues. Although if they are left unchecked, the smell will become much stronger and your pet's oral health and wellbeing will continue to decline.
How to Treat Bad Breath in Dogs?
The reason why your dog has bad breath will largely influence the kind of treatment it 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 dog 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 vet can range from prescription medications, specialized diets, therapies, and even surgeries to help treat your pet's condition depending on what part of their body it affects and its severity. Your vet will be able to advise you on what the best course of treatment is for the health issue underlying your dog's bad breath.
What Can I Do To Treat My Dog's Stinky Breath?
While you aren't able to treat kidney or liver disease at home, one way you can help to treat or prevent bad breath in your dog is by ensuring your dog gets the routine oral hygiene care they need 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.
Either in addition to this or if you aren't able to train your dog to tolerate brushing, instead of brushing, there are also 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 dog avoid these causes of bad breath.
Some human medications, common houseplants, and foods that are safe for our consumption are quite toxic for our pets. Make sure you are aware of what kinds of substances you have in your home that could cause organ disease or failure in your dog and keep them out of reach as much 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.