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Why Does My Dogs Breath Smell?

White puppy with mouth opened wide

My brother’s dog had HORRIBLE breath. Nothing they tried ever helped. They tried minty toys. Dental dog biscuits didn’t help or any of the many over the counter oral care products they had tried. There was simply no improvement and seemingly no solution.

Just like in people, bad breath tells us something about ourselves and our pets. It can be a marker for a multitude of health issues, serious or simple to treat.

So, trying to help my brother and his furbaby out, I searched for what chronic bad breath could mean. In my search, I found six things that your dog’s bad breath could be telling you that you might not have even considered.

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

Dog dental or gum issues

Dental issues and gum issues aren’t anything new for our pets or ourselves. But it is something you want to keep your eye on as it can affect their health to great extent. Some effects you might never have known about.

You will want to start by lifting up your pet’s lip and looking at their gums.  We do this regularly, about three to four times a week. Anytime you see red, bleeding gums it is an obvious sign of trouble.  As 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. Plus they can help with general boredom. One thing is to be sure you get ones that will actually fit your dog’s mouth, getting too big of one can cause tooth cracks, and too small can pose choking hazards.

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 and cracked enamel can hide and that can let bacterial in. So, it’s important to have your vet check their teeth twice a year. In between vet checks, brush your dog’s teeth if they will allow it, otherwise, there are specialty wipes and sprays now on the market that can help. Dog chews are a good thing to have on hand also and can help with gum health as well, but beware, not all chews are created equal. Be sure to get ones that aren’t going to leave your pup’s mouth in worse condition.

And don’t worry, it’s never too late to start a good dental hygiene plan.  Although it is easier to start your pet when they are young so they will also enjoy the procedure. Yes, it can feel like a procedure, but don’t give up if your pup is irritated with your attempts to clean their choppers. It’s important especially since like us any dental issues can cause other serious health issues down the line including kidney disease, heart issues, and more.

Kidney Disease and Bad Breath in Dogs

hound laying in grass

Does your dog’s breath smell like ammonia?

This can be a sign that their kidneys are failing.  The kidney’s job is to filter waste from the blood.  When they fail, the waste builds up and cannot be excreted. This can be life-threatening.

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

  • Panting for no apparent reason
  • 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 Dour Dog’s Breath can Tell You About Diabetes

If you smell sour fruit, it could be a sign of diabetes. Some have also described the smell to be similar to nail polish remover. When the pancreas stops getting the right signals it doesn’t produce insulin properly which can lead to diabetes in our furbabies.

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

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.

Canine Liver Problems can Cause Bad Breath

white dog with mouth open

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 it is vital to keep it working properly for the health of your furbaby.

I admit that those last two were pretty horrible sounding. Luckily though, the good news is that both are highly manageable and treatable by your vet.  Which of course means your dog can live a long, happy, tail waggin’ life.

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

Sinusitis or Rhinitis Causing Bad Breath in Dogs

tan dog with face wrinkled up to sneeze standing in tall grass

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 can also cause dry mouth and make the smell worse. It’s no different for people OR dogs on this one. If it lasts just a couple of days or 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 from their Stomach

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.

Oh, wait!!

I have a BONUS for you!

Dog Bad Breath from Yucky Food

Boxer with a pink bowtie

Sometimes your dog just finds horrible things to eat. Or they have food trapped in their teeth that got missed during routine cleaning.

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 – the 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 ) 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 a 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!!

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Please note: This post is not meant to prevent, treat or, cure any ailment or disease. We are not veterinarians and you use our advice at your own discretion. We always recommend that you consult your veterinarian whenever you have health-related conditions your furbaby is facing. With that in mind, as pet parents ourselves, we wish nothing but the best for your pet and their healthy and happy lives.

Monday 12th of February 2024


Friday 23rd of February 2024