Is my dog's breath supposed to smell like that? 

Bad breath is common in dogs, especially as they get older, but did you know it doesn’t necessarily mean bad teeth and can be a sign of other serious health issues in your canine companion? Understanding why you want to turn your face away from your dog’s stinky mouth when they greet you is the first step in appropriately treating not only the smell but the underlying cause.

Why does my dog have bad breath?

Don’t be tempted to just grin and bear the stink from your pooch’s panting, here are some of the possible reasons behind their bad breath and why you shouldn’t ignore it.

Dental disease

Caused by the build-up of plaque and bacteria, bad breath can be a sign of dental disease which affects teeth, gums and bone. Dental disease can result in gum infections, bone loss and, if left untreated over time, the loss of teeth and other serious health problems as bacteria can enter the bloodstream and be carried to the heart, liver and kidneys.

Something in their mouth

Dogs like chewing things. It might be their favourite toy, a stick they found on a walk or… a pair of your nicest shoes. Sometimes, while they’re busy digging their teeth into things, some of the material can get stuck between their teeth, wedged at the roof of their mouth or even in their gums.

Kidney disease

The kidneys function as the body’s filtration system, so if there’s an underlying disease or problem, toxins may start to build up in a dog’s bloodstream. These are called urea and can make your canine companion’s breath smell like ammonia or urine.

a dog yawns while cuddling their owner

Liver disease

Bad breath accompanied by yellowing of the gums, vomiting and diarrhoea or lack of appetite may indicate that there’s a problem with the way your dog’s liver is functioning.  


When your dog’s breath smells like chemicals, it could be because they’re suffering from diabetes. It can also cause their breath to have a sweet smell. This is because a diabetic dog lacks insulin and without it, it’s very difficult for their bodies to break down the sugars that they consume. In order to get the necessary sugars, their body will start breaking down fat to help create the fuel they need to keep going. These cells are called ketones and can cause a smell similar to the sweets pear drops or nail polish remover.

When untreated, diabetes can also suppress the dog’s immune system which can allow the bacteria to multiply and thrive in the mouth.

Ate something smelly

Some dogs are more inclined to eat things that shouldn’t be eaten, even if those things stink! This could be a very simple reason behind your dog’s smelly breath so make sure you keep an eye on them while you’re out and about so that you can stop them from making a meal from another animal’s faecal matter.

Tumours in the mouth

The development of oral cancers or tumours can lead to bad breath. As masses grow, they can become infected, and parts of the mouth tissue die which creates the perfect environment for bacterial growth leading to persistent bad breath.

How to treat bad breath in dogs

The treatment your dog requires for their foul-smelling kisses depends on the underlying cause. Since bad breath is usually a sign of an underlying health condition, it should dissipate once the problem is successfully treated.

If your dog’s breath smells, it’s best to take them to see a vet where they can be given the necessary checks to find the cause of the smell. Any loose or damaged teeth will need to be extracted before they cause any further problems for your pooch.

If your dog’s eating habits are to blame for the smelly breath, you’ll be able to stop them from eating things they shouldn’t be by limiting the time they might be by themselves, securing any bins and stopping them from pausing for too long on walks. Cleaning up after your dog and quickly disposing of used cat litter or other “presents” left by wildlife in your garden are also important measures to take.

How to prevent bad breath in dogs

There are several ways to prevent bad breath in dogs. Regularly brushing your pooch’s teeth can help stop plaque from building, keeping their mouth clean and free of any foul smells. Your dog may need some training before they learn to tolerate their teeth being cleaned but it’s worth the perseverance.

Appropriate chew toys and dental treats can also help take care of your dog’s teeth. These products exert a grazing action on the teeth and gums which removes any plaque while keeping their mouths stimulated.

And that’s it for all things smelly breath. Always remember to get any whiffs checked out by your vet to keep your pooch happy and healthy.

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