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Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell So Bad & How Do I Treat It?

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell So Bad & How Do I Treat It?

What’s that awful smell?

Eww, Fido… is that you?

Oh my God, why is it so stinky? Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad? Is it supposed to be THIS bad?

I feel your pain. A dog’s stinky breath is definitely something you don’t want to experience ever in your life. But, as much as it’s unpleasant to you, it’s even more unpleasant for your dog.

You see, bad breath is not only a bad smell. It’s a sign that something is wrong with your buddy. Something severe.

From regular plaque to life-threatening conditions – we’ll cover all the underlying reasons for bad breath with dogs, and show you how to prevent it from happening again.

No, the treatment does not include breath mints. It’s far more complicated, so I’ll ask you to sit back, give me your attention, and let me explain everything behind a dog’s bad breath!

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell So Bad?

happy dog sitting on grass

First, we have to clear up something regarding a dog’s breath. Before you start wondering, “Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?”, you should know the difference between a normal smell and a foul odor.

Naturally, we can’t expect our dogs to have fresh, minty breath because they don’t have the same hygiene habits as humans, and they don’t have the same diet. In fact, it would be unhealthy for your dog to have such a fresh smell.

So, what does a normal dog’s breath smell like?

Well, it doesn’t really smell like anything. It’s the same as human breath, which is simply normal, not too pleasant, but also not too stinky either. Trust me… you’ll notice when your dog’s breath smells odd.

Now, let’s talk about that bad smell bothering you and your canine buddy!

There are numerous reasons why your dog has bad breath. Unfortunately, this bad breath isn’t only unpleasant, but it’s also a sign that something can be severely wrong with your four-legged friend.

I know your pup loves giving wet dog kisses, but when he has a foul smell, those kisses aren’t appreciated at all. If you’re a dog owner or spend lots of time around dogs, you know their bad smell is one of the most hideous smells in the world, right next to worn socks and blue cheese in the sun.

But, enough kidding around. We should address the issues behind the bad smell so your dog’s kisses can become pleasant once again.

Believe it or not, problems with teeth aren’t the only things behind the bad smell. There are other, deeper reasons that could lead to severe health complications if not treated.

Should A Dog’s Breath Be So Smelly? What Causes Bad Dog Breath?

dog standing outside barking

As we now know, it’s not normal for a dog’s breath to smell bad. If your dog suffers from terrible breath, you should look for the cause because it’s often a result of some underlying health issues. You shouldn’t just shake it off and claim it’s just the way your Fido smells.

No… Fido’s breath smells because of numerous reasons, from rotten teeth to periodontal diseases and other health problems. We will now discuss all the possible causes behind bad doggy breath.

Periodontal Diseases

I can say with every right that periodontal diseases and poor dental hygiene are the simplest reasons behind stinky breath in your dog’s mouth. However, if you leave any condition untreated, you might end up with severe complications.

Most often, dogs suffer from tooth decay and tartar buildup. A dog’s teeth are just like humans – prone to decaying and getting chipped because of nibbling on hard foods. Most dogs will be left without their teeth over time. Others will suffer from rotten teeth.

Simply put, once a tooth “dies”, his breath will start smelling bad, and it will even hurt your pup. It’s too late for tooth brushing now. All you can do is take your dog to a specialist and have the rotten tooth removed before the decay moves onto other teeth.

On the other hand, tartar buildup or plaque buildup is something we can definitely solve with regular dental cleanings and the proper use of dog toothpaste. A standard part of any grooming session with your dog should be teeth cleaning with proper utensils.

If you can’t commit to daily brushing, do it at least two to three times a week. In the meanwhile, I recommend you offer your Fido some dental chews. They’re yummy sticks that have nutritional value, AND they help your dog to clean its teeth and have a normal smell.

Besides these common dental diseases, your dog can also suffer from lots of gum diseases, including gingivitis, and redness and swelling of the gum line.

Also, before things get too serious, I’d check on my dog’s behavior. Sometimes, bad breath can only be a result of your dog licking his butt, especially when that dog’s butt smells like fish. I’d have that checked if I were you.

Liver Disease

Foul breath is only one of the symptoms that can indicate your dog is struggling with some sort of liver disease. The next time you ask yourself, “Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?”, think of other symptoms he might be showing.

For example, canine liver diseases are often characterized by vomiting yellow bile and a loss of appetite. Also, if your pup shows a yellowish gum line, that could also be a sign.

Liver diseases are conditions that should be treated immediately; otherwise, you’re putting your dog in danger of getting liver failure.

Kidney Disease

closeup of dog's nose and mouth

It’s common for dogs to eat their feces. Poop is often on the menu of curious dogs with wacky behavior. However, I haven’t seen many dogs drinking their own urine, yet still, some of them exhibit urine smell from their mouth.

No, that’s not a result of poor oral hygiene. That’s a sign that something’s wrong with your dog’s kidneys! Other signs include a change of the urine color, so keep an eye on normal canine urine color by using this chart.

The first thing your vet will do is have your dog try another diet, then submit him to numerous tests on bacteria infections and viruses, such as the one transmitted by ticks.

Urine smell in your dog’s mouth can also lead to many oral ulcers, which are a clear sign that something’s wrong with your pup’s kidneys.


Dogs can suffer from diabetes, too! This condition is severe, but dogs can still live with it as long as they get proper treatment.

Canine diabetes means you and your dog will have to struggle with maintaining normal blood sugar levels so they don’t go to extremes.

Sadly, canine diabetes is pretty common. If your dog has bad breath, I’d suspect diabetes as soon as poor oral health is excluded. You don’t want such a life-threatening condition to go too long without medications.

If you suspect diabetes is affecting your dog in a severe manner, then you should check out these signs.

Bad Choice Of Dog Food

A good choice of dog food is crucial for your dog’s health. Not only does it improve its current health status, but it also works on preventing severe complications with your pet’s help, i.e., diabetes.

Low-quality dog kibble is made of all kinds of scraps and food you’d never usually offer your dog. If you look at the back of the bag, you’ll notice that there might not be real animal proteins. Instead, such kibble is packed with fillers and meat scraps, and that can be quite smelly.

Sadly, dogs don’t stop at kibble. These curious creatures love nibbling on all sorts of things, even eating them! It’s not unusual for a dog to go through the litter box and munch on your cat’s doo-doo.

Dead animals, roadkill, garbage, etc. are also beloved chew toys.

That’s why it’s of great importance to monitor what your dog eats.

Dog food is probably the least severe issue. What is more problematic are occasional snacks and treats outside their dietary plan. Not only do these items cause bad breath in dogs once they’re swallowed, but they can also get stuck between the teeth and affect your dog’s dental health.

How Do I Treat Bad Breath With Dogs?

dog barking by sofa

The biggest question here is, “Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad, and how can I fix it?”.

The first step is definitely finding the root cause of the bad smell. Depending on the condition, your dog’s treatment can either be quite simple or quite problematic.

If diabetes, kidney, or liver diseases are the underlying cause of your pup’s foul breath, then you should see a professional. You can’t expect things to get solved on their own, especially not with such severe conditions.

Your dog’s vet will give you a detailed treatment plan once he conducts all the necessary tests. Without tests and further examination, you can’t expect your dog to get treated and the bad smell to go away.

On the other hand, oral issues can be solved with proper dental care. We’ll talk about that soon. But, right now, I want to address something regarding oral health that can’t be solved at home, and it affects your pet’s health significantly.

It’s oral tumors.

Sadly, many senior canines end up with oral tumors for some reason. We still can’t prevent them, but we can take our dog to regular checkups to catch the tumor before it becomes something bigger.

Prevention: What Can I Do To Prevent My Dog’s Breath From Smelling Bad?

dog barking at someone

Almost all common causes of bad breath in dogs can be solved with proper diet and dental hygiene. That’s what we’ll focus on in this part regarding prevention.

I know premium-quality kibble can be quite pricey, but there are always ways to get it discounted or to buy large. Trust me, feeding your dog good-quality dog food is more important than you think.

Stick with dog food recipes that feature the first five ingredients as real animal proteins and fillers that can actually benefit your dog, i.e., chicken, turkey, sweet potato, blueberries, kale, etc.

Regularly check your dog’s teeth for anything stuck between them. Dog kibble that’s too hard may get stuck and cause an unpleasant feeling for your dog.

Dog Brushing 101

It’s of high importance to brush your dog’s teeth. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) recommends daily brushing or at least regular weekly brushing to clean your pups’ teeth thoroughly.

But, what kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should I use for my dog?

First and foremost, never use a human toothbrush and toothpaste on your dog!

We’re blessed to live in such an age when dogs have lots of things for a privileged life, including toothbrushes and paste. I mean, did anyone brush their dog’s teeth some 50 years ago? Only hardcore dog breeders and professionals, that’s for sure.

But, the average dog owner introduced himself to these products some time ago.

You see, a dog’s toothpaste is not as strong as a human’s. It does not even contain the same ingredients. They feature specially-designed formulas for canines that cannot hurt the dog in any way. For example, fluoride can be toxic for dogs.

You can often find packages of doggy toothpaste and brushes with strong bristles sold together. Also, lately, I’ve seen many of my colleagues recommending water additives for a dog’s fresh smell. These additives don’t have any flavor or harmful ingredients, but they still give nice, fresh doggy breath.

Halitosis can be easily treated if the underlying cause is found in time.

Play this by the book and you’ll never have to wonder “Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad” again!

Final Words

closeup of dog howling

The burning question, “Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?”, is finally answered.

And, the answer is not a simple one as you can see.

Your pooch can have numerous problems causing bad breath. It’s up to you and your vet to help discover what causes stinky odor from your dog’s mouth, and how to treat it.

I urge you to take good care of your dog’s dental hygiene. As much as we like having our teeth clean, dogs like it, too. Sure, it can be tricky at the beginning (getting your dog used to brushing, and all that), but the effort is definitely worth it.

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