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Bad Dog Breath

Bad breath in dogs can be very unpleasant and annoying to owners and to other people who share the same space with dogs. The cause of bad breath can be as simple as eating rotten food or even feces, but sometimes, diseases can hide behind bad breath, and some of them can be serious. If not discovered in time, they can go to a chronic state and cause serious problems.

To solve the problem of bad breath in dogs, the cause of it needs to be treated. In this article, you can learn about what causes bad breath in dogs, which dog breeds are prone to this unpleasant condition, and the best options for the treatment of bad breath.

What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs?

Plaque, gingivitis, and different injuries in the mouth can cause the growth of bad bacteria, which results in bad breath. Systemic diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, liver diseases, and others, also cause bad breath in dogs, but on a different principle.

Poor Oral Hygiene and Diseases of the Oral Cavity

Dental health is important for a dog’s overall health. There are few diseases of the oral cavity to which dogs are prone to, such as gum (periodontal) disease, tooth decay, gingivitis, and dental plaque.

Bad oral hygieneThese diseases usually occur because of bad oral hygiene. Sometimes, tiny wounds inside the mouth of a dog increase the chance for the infection to occur. Mouths are an ideal medium for bacterial growth, especially when the dog has plaque and periodontitis, which makes it easier for food particles to stay between the teeth and inside cracks, and that causes the appearance of unpleasant odors in a dog’s mouth. The most common bacteria that cause oral infections are Streptococcus spp. and Staphylococcus spp.; because of their metabolic products, the breath has a bad smell.1Reiter, A.M. (December 2013). Periodontal Disease in Small Animals. MSD Veterinary Manual. Retrieved 12 September 2020.


Diabetic dogs have a higher level of ketones in their blood; this happens because they are unable to metabolize glucose (diabetes mellitus). A diabetic dog starts to metabolize fatty acids to fill the energy deficit, and the final product is ketones. Because of ketones, the breath of your dog smells like nail polish.

Bad breath in diabetic dogs can occur because of the high level of glucose (sugar) found in the saliva, which is a suitable medium for the growth of different kinds of bacteria, which cause the breath to have a bad odor. 2Noris, D. Do You Know These Seven Symptoms of Canine Diabetes. Pet Helpful. Retrieved 12 September 2020.

Kidney Diseases

The kidneys have the function of filtrating the blood from all excessive and toxic products. If, for some reason, they do not work properly, toxins start to build up in the organism because kidneys are unable to excrete them.

Dog sitting next to his pissOne of these compounds that can cause bad breath in dogs is urea. Urea breaks down to ammonia, which is secreted with saliva, and that is the reason why the dog’s breath gets bad and starts smelling like urine. Some of the other symptoms that you should pay attention to include excessive water intake, excessive urinating, urinating in unusual places (where the dog normally does not urinate), loss of appetite and sometimes in severe cases mouth ulcers (caused by urea that cannot be metabolized by kidneys).

Liver Diseases

The liver, just like kidneys, has a filtering function. After digestion, the liver “rounds up” the blood from the digestive system to filter the useful and harmful substances.

If the dog has some kind of liver disease (hepatitis, liver cirrhosis), this organ does not function normally as it should, so all the toxic substances stay in the blood, such as sulfur. While in the blood, sulfur reaches the lungs, and when your dog breathes, you can smell the odor that reminds you of rotten eggs and sometimes garlic.

Lack of Certain Nutrients

Vitamin B helps with digestion (with the metabolism of carbohydrates, fat, etc.), and it is believed that a deficiency of B vitamins can cause bad breath in dogs. This happens because of the unmetabolized waste left in the blood.

Bad Eating Habits

Sometimes dogs have a tendency to eat things like feces, garbage, rotten meat, sand, etc. This is called allotriophagia, and it can be caused by a deficiency in minerals or by bad absorption of minerals. Because of this, a large amount of bacteria comes inside the mouth, and besides oral diseases, it can cause other gastrointestinal problems.

Which Dogs Are More Prone to Bad Breath?

All dog breeds can have oral cavity diseases, and with it, bad breath, but small breeds are usually more prone to these diseases because of teeth crowding, teeth eruption, gingival hyperplasia, etc. Some of these breeds include the following:

  • Pugs
  • Collies
  • Chihuahuas
  • Boxers
  • Shih-Tzus
  • Yorkies
  • Dachshunds

If the mouth hygiene is bad, plaque forms, tartar starts to accumulate and food particles stick easily between teeth, which causes bacteria to grow, which leads to different problems in the oral cavity. The best way to prevent the diseases of the oral cavity is to do regular dental examinations at your local veterinarian.3Miller, A. (January 31, 2018). 7 Dog Breeds Prone to Dental Disease. Braxton’s Animal Works. Retrieved 13 September 2020.

How to Get Rid of a Dog’s Bad Breath?

Poor mouth hygiene and oral cavity diseases are usually the leading cause of bad breath in dogs. If you notice that your dog has bad breath, a change in appetite, or if you notice plaque, gum hemorrhage, or some other problem, contact your veterinarian.

The veterinarian will examine the oral cavity and decide how to treat it. If your dog has too much plaque, he will remove it, and after the treatment, he will rinse the dog’s mouth with a mild antiseptic. If needed, the veterinarian will apply antibiotics to prevent infections and further complications.

If your dog has a bad habit of eating unnatural things like feces or garbage, you need to do your best to prevent this from happening, and you have to take your dog to regular dental checks. The veterinarian will prescribe you certain food additives rich with minerals (calcium, potassium, phosphorus) and vitamins (B, A) if needed.

After the treatment, the best thing to do is to use products that prevent plaque and tartar and that keep the breath always fresh. Like dental water additives, for example. The good side of these products is that there is no need to brush teeth; you just pour the product into the dog’s bowl with water and mix it.

If your dog suffers from diabetes or from kidney or liver disease, it has to be treated as soon as possible. After the condition is treated or is under treatment, with the help of dental products, the bad breath should disappear.

Home Remedies for Stinky Dog Breath

If your dog doesn’t have serious problems like gum disease, cavities, or large amounts of plaque, you can try some homemade remedies that might help you with the prevention of plaque to get rid of bad breath. You can try apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, and chamomile tea.

Concentrated apple cider vinegar can upset a dog’s stomach, so it’s necessary to dilute it with water first. After diluting it, you can soak the gauze or a clean cloth and clean the teeth with it. Make sure the dog does not swallow it.

Chamomile is a mild antiseptic that can help to keep the mouth clean. You can also do this by soaking the gauze with chamomile tea and cleaning the teeth with it.
Before applying these remedies, you should brush the dog’s teeth gently, to avoid causing any injuries. Do not use human toothpaste or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), because sodium bicarbonate is alkaline, and it can disrupt the acid balance in the dog’s stomach. Note that most dogs will not cooperate! If your dog is scared or nervous, to calm him, you can try natural sprays made with lavender, which calms the dog and makes it less anxious. To apply it, you can directly spray your dog’s nose with it, or you can spray it on your hand and rub it on the dog’s nose area. These sprays are useful during long trips, veterinary examinations, etc.

Prevention of Bad Breath in Dogs

To prevent bad breath in dogs, you must occasionally check the teeth of your dog to see if there are any changes. If you are not sure and if you suspect that something is going on, take your dog to the veterinarian. Oral health has a very important role in the dog’s general health state, so you should not ignore it.

Poor oral hygiene and diseases of the oral cavityMake sure that your dog has good oral hygiene, especially if the teeth are crowded. If there is excess food between the teeth and in the mouth, clean it regularly. You can do the cleaning daily or at least two to three times per week. You can use dental water additives if your dog is resisting cleaning by a toothbrush, and even if your dog doesn’t have any dental problems. By doing this, you will keep its teeth clean, strong, and protected against plaque, and of course, bad breath. Chew toys can also be helpful in preventing the buildup of dental plaque.

Since bad breath can be one of the symptoms of diseases like diabetes, kidney and liver disease, it is essential that you, as a responsible owner, do your best to keep your dog in good health. You can do this by giving attention to your dog, making sure it gets exercise, and taking it to regular check-ups at the veterinarian, so you can track or prevent diseases.


Besides oral diseases (periodontosis, plaque, etc.), many other diseases can cause bad breath (kidney diseases, liver diseases, diabetes). This type of bad breath occurs when there are some changes in metabolism. For example, the kidneys are unable to metabolize nitrogen, which ends up in saliva, causing bad breath.

Also, morbid appetite (allotriophagia) can cause bad breath and also some oral infections, even further down the gastrointestinal tract. Always be careful of what your dog eats, and especially pay attention when you are outside with your dog, because there are a lot of bad and unhealthy things that dogs can ingest, such as other dog’s feces, animal cadavers (birds), etc.

Take your dog to the vet to remove plaque when needed. This way, you can prevent some oral cavity diseases, such as gum (periodontal) disease. Also, to prevent the plaque from forming, use dental products (water additives, dental sticks, chews, and other dental treats). If your dog suffers from diseases such as diabetes, kidney diseases, and liver diseases, first you have to treat it and put it under control. Bad breath caused by these diseases will vanish with the help of good oral health.

Be a responsible owner, take care of your dog’s oral hygiene, take your dog to regular examinations, and do exercises with it to prevent the development of the more serious diseases mentioned above.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Bad Breath in Dogs

Why Does My Dog Have Bad Breath?

There are many reasons why your dog might have bad breath. The most common reasons are bad oral hygiene, oral cavity diseases, and the bad habit of eating feces and other similar things.

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

When the dog eats the carcasses of dead animals, feces, garbage, and other dirty stuff, the breath can smell like fish.

How to Make Dog’s Breath Smell Better?

You can do this by regular teeth cleaning, regular dental checks, regular plaque removal, and with the use of dental products such as chews or water additives.

Is Bad Breath a Sign of Illness?

Bad breath can be connected with some illnesses like diabetes, kidney diseases, liver diseases, etc.

Can Stomach Issues Cause Bad Breath in Dogs?

This problem can happen when the dog eats stale food, or if your dog has gastritis (high levels of acid in the stomach).

What Can I Give My Dog for Its Bad Breath?

You can give different dental products for dogs, such as dental sticks, chews, and water additives.


1 Reiter, A.M. (December 2013). Periodontal Disease in Small Animals. MSD Veterinary Manual. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
2 Noris, D. Do You Know These Seven Symptoms of Canine Diabetes. Pet Helpful. Retrieved 12 September 2020.
3 Miller, A. (January 31, 2018). 7 Dog Breeds Prone to Dental Disease. Braxton’s Animal Works. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
Dr. Benjamin Razic (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin Razic (DVM)
Dr. Benjamin is a young, ambitious veterinarian, working in a busy regional vet station in Travnik. He is interested in animal virology and is locally engaged in animal rights. Benjamin also has a certificate in surgical support, anesthesia monitoring, canine welfare, and hospitalization. He has a mixed-breed dog he has found on the streets.

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