What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs and How To Fix it

what causes bad breath in dogs

Last Updated on February 26, 2021

There’s no doubt that you love your fur baby, especially her kisses. But her breath? Not so much. What causes bad breath in dogs? More importantly, what can you do to get rid of it?

If your fur baby has a case of bad dog breath, it’s likely caused by one of three reasons ranging from what they’ve eaten, all the way to being an early symptom of an illness.

Luckily for you and your nose, there are many different ways to fix bad dog breath. Keep reading to learn why your dog has bad breath and what you can do to keep it fresh!

What Causes Bad Breath In Dogs?

There is a list of things that could be causing your dog to have bad breath. Fortunately, all of these reasons can be summed up into three categories, including what they’ve eaten and their general health.

Here are the main reasons behind bad dog breath.

Questionable Diet:

Dogs eat whatever they will deem fit for food, including dead animals, garbage, and their own poop. Clearly, any one of these things will cause bad breath bacteria to grow and literally wreak havoc.

Also, normal food like kibble and dog bones can get stuck between your pup’s teeth and can smell when they begin to decay. This is one of the biggest reasons why you should be regularly brushing your pup’s teeth.

However, I know it’s impossible to 100% guarantee what goes into your dog’s mouth since they will pick up things off the floor, the ground, or wherever else.

Poor Oral Health:

Another likely cause behind your dog’s bad breath may be that something is going on in her mouth. Bad breath is a sure sign of oral health (aka periodontal) issues like:

  • Gum disease:

Gum diseases like gingivitis can impact your dog’s breath because it’s deteriorating the gums. 

  • Excess of tooth plaque:

When the plaque and tartar on your pup’s teeth builds up too much, it promotes bacteria that will start to affect the smell of her breath.

  • Broken or Decaying Tooth:

A broken tooth can quickly go bad if it’s not properly tended to. When it starts to rot, then it will leave a rotten smell.

  • Infected Tooth or Abscess:

Not only can an infected tooth or abscess create a rotten smell inside your dog’s mouth, but the bacteria that comes from the infection is also toxic and could be fatal if not treated in time.

bad breath in dogs - guilty dog face

Is Bad Breath in Dogs A Sign Of Illness?

If periodontal issues aren’t the problem, then your dog’s bad breath may be a sign of something worse. For dogs, bad breath can also be a symptom of an illness of some sort.  Of course, bad breath could never certainly determine an illness, but it may be a sign to call your vet.

Here are some of the common medical reasons that cause bad breath in dogs.


One of the signs of canine diabetes is sweet-smelling breath. If your dog’s breath is starting to smell a little bit like fruit, contact your vet asap!

Kidney and Liver Disease:

Paired with other symptoms like loss of appetite and other things, bad breath can be caused by a dysfunction of your dog’s liver or kidneys. A common indicator of liver disease is foul breath, vomiting, and yellow gums and kidney disease will cause a dog’s breath to smell like pee.

Oral Cancer:

This is rare, but if there’s a tumor growing in your dogs’ mouth, it could let off a stench that you think is her breath.

Digestive Issues:

If your pup is having trouble digesting something or is reacting to food intolerance, it may cause digestive issues like acid reflux, bowel blockage, and nausea, which will lead to a serious case of bad dog breath.

brushing dog's teeth

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How Do I Get Rid Of My Dog’s Bad Breath?

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

The truth is most pet parents don’t really know how often to brush their fur baby’s teeth. So, oral health goes somewhat unnoticed until there’s a case of bad dog breath.

Vets recommend that you should be brushing your pup’s teeth at least a couple of times per week. Of course, the more often your brush her teeth, the healthier your dog’s mouth will be.

You can use a typical dog toothbrush like this one or a finger toothbrush like these. Either way, it may take a bit of trial and error with your pup at first, but keep trying and make it a daily habit.

Buy The Right Kind Of Toys

Instead of slobber-covered stuffies, consider using rubber chew toys and rope toys instead. Not only are they much more durable, but they’re also better for your pup’s teeth.

Rubber chew toys like the Kong Classic or this beef flavor-infused chew toy help to wipe off all the plaque and tartar that builds up on your dog’s teeth and gums.

Or you can get dental floss tug toys like this one to help floss the plaque and bits of food between the teeth.

Give Your Pup Dental Chews

Another great way to combat bad breath in dogs is by giving them dental chews. This is even handier if your dog hates having her teeth brushed.

Dental chews like Greenies work to break down all of the buildups on your dog’s teeth and freshen up her breath too. Plus, there are specialized chews for different life stages and diets, so they’re all suited to your dog’s oral health needs. 

Use Water Additives

Water additives like Nylabone or TropiClean Oral Care work just like mouthwash to remove bacteria from your dog’s mouth. They are easy to use for fussy pups. And more often than not, they also contain supplements like calcium and vitamin C, so your dog’s getting all the nutrients she needs.


You may have heard that dogs may have cleaner mouths than humans. This is debatable depending on who you ask, but that doesn’t mean your dogs don’t need a little help with their breath. Most of the time, your pup’s bad breath can be summed up to her oral health.

However, it’s sometimes an early indicator of a disease. So, if oral health has been checked off your list, it’s time to call your vet.

Making sure your dog’s teeth are clean and her mouth is healthy is one of the best ways to keep her breath fresh. You can also increase her health and refresh her breath by giving her chews and water additives.

Get rid of the sewer mouth and get back to enjoying those puppy/doggy kisses!


Don’t forget to brush and floss 😉

bad breath in dogs

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