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Bad Breath in Dogs: Causes and Treatment

Posted: 05/23/2023 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories: Dog , Health problems , Pet care , Top Tips

If you’re a dog owner, you are probably familiar with that whiff of bad breath from your dog’s mouth when she swoops in to lick your face. Bad breath in dogs has many causes, including dental problems, infection, and gastrointestinal issues. This blog post examines the causes and treatment of bad breath in dogs. We will also provide tips for preventing bad breath in your pup.

What causes bad breath in dogs?

Dogs have various causes for bad breath, from disgusting dietary habits to serious medical infections and conditions. Here are some of the most common causes of bad breath in dogs.

1. Gross dietary habits

Dogs can be gross when it comes to eating, whether a surprise snack from the garbage or leftovers off someone else’s plate. Also, if your pup regularly gets access to decomposing animal remains, she may start eating them. Even worse, many dogs are attracted to cat poop; so if you have cats in your home, that temptation is a constant for your pup. These actions result in bad breath and lots of cringing from pup parents.

2. An inappropriate canine diet

Certain ingredients in your dog’s diet may negatively impact his digestive system, causing bad breath due to an unbalanced gut microbiome. Your dog’s oral health may also be negatively affected by the lack of certain nutrients in his diet.

Deficiencies in specific vitamins are connected with early gum disease symptoms. The vitamins in question are:

  •  vitamin A
  •  vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
  • vitamin B3 (niacin)
  • vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
  • and vitamin B9 (folic acid) 

To ensure that your dog receives adequate nutrition, you may consider providing him with a multivitamin, supplement, or more fish and liver.

3. Gum Disease

A regular oral hygiene regimen can prevent gum disease in pets. Still, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 80% of dogs have gum disease by age three. Although gum disease is preventable, a lot of dogs suffer from it. 

Poor oral hygiene can aggravate some bad-breath-causing conditions. Inflamed gums, for example, can allow harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Those bacteria can worsen canine diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and making it difficult to manage blood sugar levels. 

Here are some aspects of gum disease that cause bad breath in dogs.

  • Plaque

Plaque is the most frequent cause of bad breath in dogs and is composed of bacteria that grow on the teeth. The accumulation of dental plaque on a dog’s teeth is the ultimate cause of their deterioration. Plaque is a naturally occurring substance that forms when we eat and drink. If plaque is not removed correctly with tooth brushing, it will build up over time and lead to other medical conditions.

  • Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the gums around your dog’s teeth. It can lead to oral issues such as chronic pain, bone jaw infection, tooth loss, and serious health problems like kidney, liver, or heart disease. This condition can be reversible with early treatment. Combined with plaque growth, gingivitis contributes significantly to bad breath in dogs.

4. Periodontitis: imbalanced gut and oral microbiomes

A balanced gut and oral microbiomes are critical for your dog’s health. Some pet parents don’t think oral health and gut health are linked, but they are connected. The presence of “bad” bacteria, beneficial bacteria dominance, or excessive bacterial proliferation can imbalance a microbiome.

Gut microbiomes

An imbalanced gut microbiome can result in bad breath in dogs. The overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine leads to smelly gas. This gas is absorbed into the bloodstream and exhaled, resulting in bad breath. This indicates that some diseases related to gut microbiome imbalances might cause bad breath. Bowel obstructions, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal problems can all cause bad breath in dogs when the foul smells associated with digestion move in the wrong direction in the intestinal tract.

Oral microbiomes

A dog’s oral microbiome can disrupt bacteria in the gut microbiome if it is imbalanced through periodontitis. Unsurprisingly, some of the bacteria in saliva, which is swallowed in large amounts, end up living in the gut. They travel through the bloodstream, leading to medical issues such as heart disease, endocarditis, and valvular disease. An imbalanced microbiome caused by too many “bad” bacteria in the mouth could also contribute to bad breath.

Breath-based tests can identify diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease early on since they are connected to poor oral hygiene. Taking care of your dog’s oral microbiome with good oral hygiene practices is the first line of defense for preventing bad breath.

How can you treat bad breath in dogs?

Many things can cause bad breath, but it’s most often related to an underlying health condition. The good news is that once you treat the problem at its source — which usually involves taking your dog to see their vet for routine checkups and cleanings— the bad smells should go away, too. Pup parents can treat their dog’s bad breath by brushing the pup’s teeth daily and providing dental treats and chews.

Your vet can recommend treatments for dogs with bad breath, including prescription medications, specialized diets, and even surgeries. The vet will advise you on what is best suited to treat your pup’s condition, depending on where it affects their body. They may also run tests to determine how severe the problem is to decide on the correct form of treatment.

When in doubt, see the vet.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and good oral cleaning practices may not be sufficient to cure your dog’s bad breath. It’s time to meet with your veterinarian if your pet’s breath doesn’t improve. Your veterinarian may be able to diagnose an underlying health problem, recommend dietary changes, and suggest professional dental cleaning if necessary.

Keep calm and brush on.

Bad breath in dogs may be an indication of a serious illness developing. Depending on the disease, you could face months or years of veterinary costs and medical care. With a pet insurance plan, you can forget about that financial worry. Pet Insurance Review finds the best pet insurance plans for every pup parent and their dog. Get a free quote and learn how much money you can save on the best protection for your dog.


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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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