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Bad dog breath can be a sign of severe conditions

Photo of two hands examining the mouth of a black and brown dog to represent bad dog breath.

Bad dog breath, also known as halitosis, is one of the most common problems in the animal world. A lack of dental hygiene usually causes this oral malodor, but it can also be related to a severe underlying condition that might require immediate support.

Dealing with oral health goes beyond addressing the foul-smelling breath that can be uncomfortable for the humans sharing the same space with that pet. The duration and severity of these oral disorders can cause pain and inflammation, which might not be apparent but can affect your furkiddo’s quality of life, behavior, longevity, and overall health.

The most effective way to delay periodontal disease and prevent bad dog breath is being proactive at home and taking your little one to the vet for plaque removal when necessary.

What are the Causes & Signs of Bad Dog Breath?

In most cases, a pungent breath can be the first clinical sign of periodontal disease, commonly due to poor oral hygiene. However, bad dog breath can also be an occurrence of other illnesses such as:

  • Gastrointestinal inflammations or infections – In gastroenteritis conditions, the amount of gastric acid secreted increases more than usual. These issues might cause the animal to vomit, leading to a sour odor in their mouth.
  • Advanced kidney disease – Waste products that the kidneys should metabolize can accumulate in the body as toxins in dogs with kidney disease, causing an ammonia smell in the mouth. 
  • Diabetes – When a dog suffers from diabetes, insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels, does not work well. The substance used as an energy source when glucose is not readily available (ketone bodies or acetone) can cause lousy sweet breath. 
  • Tumors in the oral cavity, especially when the mouth is infected or bleeding, causing a rusty smell. 

Even dogs with no underlying health problems may experience stinky breath due to dry mouth. This symptom, associated with dehydration, can easily happen during the hot months and with older dogs, so always provide plenty of water to your little one.

What are the Diagnostic Tests for the Underlying Cause?

Therefore, to find out the real cause of the bad dog breath, you must take your little one for a veterinarian consult for a proper diagnosis. 

The first signs that your vet will likely investigate are:

  • Condition of the dog’s gums
  • Degree of tartar deposition
  • Swelling and pain around the mouth
  • Presence of loose teeth

Blood work and other tests could also be conducted if an underlying condition is causing the bad breath. The test results will help guide the next steps. 

What are the Treatment Options for Bad Breath in Dogs?

A photo of a veterinarian examining a golden retriever's mouth to illustrate bad dog breath.

The veterinarian will prescribe medication accordingly to the presence of an underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. Sometimes, the vet might recommend a thorough dental cleaning in the clinic to remove tartar plaques.

If the bad dog breath is confirmed to be related to a lack of oral hygiene, the vet might also recommend daily measures to help. Brushing your little one’s teeth periodically at home with pet-specific products is one of them.