6 Things Your Dog’s Breath Says About Their Health [Plus, Bonus Tip]

White retriever puppy with mouth open

My brother’s dog had HORRIBLE breath. Nothing they tried ever helped. They tried minty toys. Dental biscuits didn’t help. No improvement.

Just like in people, bad breath tells us something. It’s a marker for certain health issues.

So, this week, I want to look at what chronic bad breath means.

I found six things that your dog’s bad breath could be telling you.

First, you’ve got the obvious – dental or gum issues.

Dog dental or gum issues

Lift up Pup’s lip and look at his gums.  Red, bleeding gums are an obvious sign of trouble.  So is brown gunk buildup on teeth – tartar.

One of the ways to help dogs remove this buildup is to choose the right dog teeth cleaning toys for your pup to gnaw on.

Like people, this is periodontal disease. And it’s painful!! It can also cause bacterial infections or worse.  Heart, liver, or kidney damage can happen.

There are also tooth issues that are hard to spot at home.  Things like cavities can hide. So, it’s important to have your vet check Pup’s teeth twice a year. In between vet checks, brush your dog’s teeth.

No, this isn’t some fad. Really, you buy special toothpaste and toothbrush and everything. It’s never too late to start.  Although younger dogs are easier to train to enjoy the process.

Dental treats like “Greenies” are also a good idea.

Another problem could be kidney disease.

What do you know about kidney disease in dogs?

Does your dog’s breath smell like ammonia?

This happens when the kidneys fail.  They’re supposed to filter waste from the blood.  When they fail, the waste builds up.

See your vet if your dog also has one of these symptoms.

  • Weight changes
  • Appetite changes
  • Drinking more, or less
  • Urinating more often, or less volume
  • Listlessness or depression

These are serious issues, so don’t wait. See your vet right away.


What your dog’s breath can tell you about diabetes

If you smell sour fruit, it could be diabetes.

Some also describe the smell as similar to nail polish remover. When the pancreas stops getting the right signals, it can be a big problem. Because then it doesn’t produce insulin properly.

Just like people. You end up with too much insulin.  Or you end up with too little.  Either way, it’s a dangerous problem.

Other symptoms could be sudden weight loss with increased appetite.  Your dog will drink a lot more and urinate far more often.They may sleep a lot more than usual. And they can be irritable.

Hound dog panting

Canine liver problems

Strong, foul breath is never ok.

But if it comes with these symptoms, it could be liver issues.

  • Vomiting
  • Appetite loss
  • Yellowing of the eye white
  • Yellowing of his gums

Liver disease in dogs is fairly common. The liver is the body’s filter. It works harder than even the kidneys.  And it needs to work hard to purify the blood.  The liver also helps with digestion. So, when it’s not working, things can get bad fast.

Those last two were pretty horrible. But the good news is that both are manageable.  Your vet can treat them.  And your dog can live a long, happy, waggy-tail life.

The key is early detection. So, if you suspect a problem, make the call to the vet. Your Fur-Baby will thank you with puppy kisses.

Sinusitis or Rhinitis causing bad breath in dogs

Sinusitis or Rhinitis are usually lesser issues.

If Pup’s breath is normally ok, bad breath could just be a cold. Or a minor infection of the sinuses or nasal cavity. It could even be a chest cold.

Dogs react like we do when they’re stuffed up. They start breathing through their mouth. And it gets all dried out.

Mouth breathing can make breathe smell funky. It’s no different for people OR dogs on this one. If it lasts just a couple days to a week, don’t worry. But if it lasts longer, check in with the vet. The infection may need antibiotics to clear up.

Dog Bad Breath and Stomach Trouble

Another thing that can cause bad breath is stomach issues.

Sometimes, the esophagus can become inflamed. The esophagus is the tube that runs from the throat to the stomach. This type of infection also creates an odor.

This problem can result in problems swallowing. It can also cause changes in appetite.  Nausea and vomiting are common here, too. And so are changes in their stool.

Because a sore throat can put your dog off eating, take this seriously. You’ll want to talk to your vet early on this one.

So, that’s it. That’s our list of 6 issues your dog’s breath can be trying to tell you.

smiling boxer dog with a bowtie

Oh, wait!!

I have a BONUS for you!

Dog Bad Breath from Yucky Food

Sometimes your dog just finds horrible things to eat.

Some dogs like to get into the trashcans. Others like to find the droppings of other animals in the yard. If we think it’s gross – odds are your dog will LOVE it. And their breath will reek with the rewards.

But there’s good news here. A minty dental treat (I love the Greenies that I found on Amazon) can work as a breath mint. If that doesn’t work, take comfort in knowing it’s temporary.

And lock the garbage cans.

Now… THAT’S the wrap on this series. Hope it helps you. We just love our dogs so much and we want them with us for a LONG time!!

For tips on how to fix normal bad dog breath, click HERE to read our post.

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Hi! My name is Heather Hallman. I’m the mother of two beautiful girls and a MAJOR passionate pet parent. I can hardly wait to bring you the BEST resources and information that I've found for our fur-babies.