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What Can I Give My Dog For Bad Breath?

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Dog Health By Kayla Fratt 6 min read February 12, 2021

dog with stinky breath
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Let’s face it, some dogs have “puppy breath” that persists and becomes a seriously stinky problem. Is that really so surprising? We brush our teeth twice a day, and sometimes we stink, too.

But persistent bad breath in dogs is no laughing matter — bad breath can be a sign of underlying medical conditions!

Before figuring out the best treatment for your dog’s puppy breath, you need to identify the underlying cause. This may require a trip to the vet — but let’s lay out the possibilities before you pull out the phone.

What Can I Give My Dog for Bad Breath: Key Takeaways

  • There are a number of potential causes for bad doggie breath. Simple bacterial buildup is one of the most common causes, but more serious issues — including liver or kidney disease — may also cause stinky breath.
  • You’ll want to take your pooch in to the vet if you notice any troubling symptoms along with her bad breath. For example, fruity-smelling breath may indicate diabetes, and yellowish eyes may indicate liver problems.
  • No matter the cause of your dog’s bad breath, you’ll want to implement a good dental hygiene routine. This includes brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and giving her tooth-cleaning chews, treats, and toys.
Err on the Side of Caution

If you see any major changes in behavior or physique accompanying bad breath, you should call your vet right away.

Causes of Bad Dog Breath: Is It A Medical Issue?

It’s important to identify the causes of bad breath before trying to treat it. If you skip this step, you could end up masking a real issue or wasting money on something that will never fix your problem.

Some possible causes of bad canine breath include:

1. Tartar Buildup or Gum Disease

keep dog teeth clean

Stinky dog breath often stems from bacterial buildup in your dog’s mouth. This is usually the first suspect in cases of stinky breath — especially for tiny dogs. Along with your dog’s bad breath, you may notice tooth discoloration.

Luckily, bacterial buildup in the mouth is a problem that can sometimes be fixed at home through brushing or dental treats (which we’ll discuss in more detail below). However, if your dog’s oral health has been neglected for some time, you may need veterinary assistance — including a procedure called a scale and polish — to fix the issue and freshen Fido’s breath. 

Some dogs are especially prone to tartar buildup or gum disease, in which case you may need to become a regular tooth-brushing pro to keep this problem at bay!

2. Diabetes

Ketosis — a physiological state brought about by high blood sugar levels — in dogs, just like in people, can cause a weirdly sweet or fruity smell. If you’re noticing unusual fruity smells from your dog’s breath, it may be a sign that your dog has diabetes.

Take your dog to the vet if you notice that she’s been drinking and urinating more often than usual — another sign that diabetes could be a problem. Dogs can live with diabetes, but it’s going to be a long journey and they’ll require special treatment from your vet.

3. Kidney Disease

If you find that your dog’s breath reeks of ammonia or urine, he may have kidney disease. You’ll want to go to the vet to find out for sure. 

Kidney disease will require ongoing care and is a serious medical issue. This is why it’s so important to diagnose the cause of bad dog breath before ignoring or masking it!

Dogs diagnosed with this condition may be required to switch to a specialized dog food designed for kidney disease.

Like diabetes, kidney disease can also cause increased water consumption. Keep an eye out for pale gums and a chemical smell to your dog’s breath as well.

4. Liver Problems

Really foul-smelling puppy breath accompanied by vomiting, as well as yellowish eyes and gums could be a sign of liver problems.

Liver problems are serious business (the liver performs a variety of important processes for your dog’s body), so you’ll want to take your dog to the vet right away. 

How to Cure A Dog’s Bad Breath

If you read through the above causes of bad dog breath and conclude your dog’s stinky breath is nothing serious, you can begin treating that smelly dog breath.

Here are some of the best solutions for curing bad dog breath:

1. Give Your Dog’s Bowls A Good Cleaning

cure dog bad breath

Sound too simple? It’s not. Dirty food bowls can become bacteria-laden, and these bacteria can invade your pup’s mouth.

So, take the time to wash out your dog’s food and water bowls. While you’re at it, wash her toys too!

There could be some pretty major bacteria buildup there causing your dog’s stinky breath. You’ll never make headway on bad breath if your pup is constantly chewing on gross-smelling things.

You may also want to consider purchasing a dog water fountain, which provides a steady stream of clean, fresh water for your pooch.

Doggie Dishwashing

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to wash your dog’s food bowls after every meal, and wash her water bowl three to four times a week (minimally). Ideally, you’ll wash the water bowl every day.

2. Provide Your Dog With Dental-Friendly Toys

There are many dog treats and toys that are specifically designed to freshen your pup’s breath and keep her mouth clean. This leaves many owners to wonder, “What can I give my dog for bad breath?”

Some popular options include:

  • Hemp RopesHemp ropes are designed to naturally floss your dog’s teeth with the rope’s hair fibers. Plus, these ropes can be used for a fun game of tug-o-war, so you can have fun with your pup while keeping her teeth clean!
  • dog dental toyDental Ball Toys. Dental ball toys are specially-designed toys to help clean teeth and massage gums. They have specially designed soft teeth that help get into the cracks of your dog’s teeth.

Some dogs will just chew away on their own, or you can smear peanut butter into the cracks and freeze the toy to encourage chewing. These strong, bouncy toys can also be used for fetch!

  • Greenies. Greenies are chewy treats that you should give your dog every day for clean teeth. As dogs chew on them, they help clean off plaque and buildup on teeth.

They are a tasty, safe, and easy option for dental care for your dog. Unlike dental ball toys and hemp ropes, though, you’ll need to give your dog a new one every day. Just be sure to keep an eye on the calories the dental treats provide, and deduct these from your dog’s daily meal plan.  

Pet-Care Pro Tip

Use Greenies to help kennel-train your dog. These slow-to-eat treats are great to keep dogs calm and focused during potentially stressful situations!

Dental-designed toys and treats like these can help reduce plaque buildup on your pup’s teeth. Look for veterinarian-approved toys and be sure to supervise strong chewers so they don’t swallow anything.

Giving your dog a fun way to clean her own teeth is a great way to compliment tooth-brushing!

3. Brush Your Dog’s Teeth!

dog bad breath

Dogs need their teeth brushed regularly, just like people do!

Your vet can (and should) periodically clean your dog’s teeth under anesthesia, but this won’t keep your dog’s teeth clean on a day-to-day basis. So, you should learn  to brush your dog’s teeth yourself at home — after all, imagine what would happen if you only brushed your teeth when you visited the dentist! 

Just be sure to take it slow and introduce your dog to tooth brushing when she’s a puppy so that she gets used to it early on.

Many dogs are uncomfortable with this. Be sure to have lots of treats on hand to make tooth-brushing a positive and safe experience! There are a lot of options for dog toothbrushes to help with apprehensive dogs.

In addition to helping keep your dog’s teeth clean, spending time in your dog’s mouth can alert you to any other oral issues that may need attention. Plus, you may learn something new about your pup — you may, for example, discover that your dog has dark spots on her tongue you never noticed before!

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Do you regularly brush your dog’s teeth? Do you have favorite dental treats and toys? Share your suggestions!

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Written by

Kayla Fratt

Kayla Fratt is a dog behavior consultant and freelance writer. She is an Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and is a member of Dog Writer’s Association of America. She travels full time with her border collie Barley and her boyfriend, Andrew. Before coming to K9 of Mine, Kayla worked at Denver Dumb Friends League as a Behavior Technician. She owns her own dog training business, Journey Dog Training and holds a degree in biology from Colorado College. When she’s not writing or training Barley, Kayla enjoys cross-country skiing, eating sushi, drinking cocktails, and going backpacking.

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