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How To Fix Bad Breath in Dogs

↯ Key takeaway points

  • Bad breath in dogs can be caused by poor oral hygiene, unsuitable diet, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, and other digestive tract problems
  • To treat bad breath in dogs, identify and address the underlying conditions causing it, such as poor oral hygiene or internal health problems like diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease
  • Prevention of bad breath in dogs includes regular teeth brushing, feeding them healthy foods, giving them dental chews, and monitoring their chewing toys
  • Human toothpaste, most types of mint, and candy are not safe for dogs to consume
  • A thorough dental cleaning procedure in dogs can be uncomfortable and stressful and requires putting them under anesthesia.
Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Zoo and wildlife doctor in veterinary medicine passionate about animal welfare and preventive medicine.
Published on
Saturday 12 June 2021
Last updated on
Wednesday 17 May 2023
how to fix bad breath in dogs
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If your dog has bad breath, also known as halitosis, it could be a sign of poor oral hygiene, digestive problems, or certain diseases like diabetes or kidney failure. Although bad breath may not seem like a big deal on its own, it could indicate a more serious issue if your dog is also experiencing other symptoms.

In short, bad breath is not just an unpleasant odor, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. So if you notice that your furry friend has bad breath, it’s important to take them to the vet to rule out any potential health problems.

What Causes Bad Dog Breath?

There are several causes of bad dog breath. These include poor oral hygiene, unsuitable diet, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease. However, these are not the only causes. Persistent vomiting, megaesophagus, and other problems with the digestive tract can cause foul breath.

Bad Oral Hygiene

When it comes to oral hygiene, it’s important to brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week to prevent plaque buildup, tooth decay, and periodontitis. Without regular brushing, your dog’s breath can start to smell bad. If you’re not able to brush your dog’s teeth, your vet can help by cleaning your dog’s teeth thoroughly.

Smelly Diet

An unsuitable diet, such as feeding your dog greasy or fatty table scraps, can also cause bad breath. It’s important to provide your dog with a healthy, complete diet to maintain excellent health and prevent bad breath.


Ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes in dogs. This condition occurs when the body starts to run out of insulin and blood sugar levels become very high. When this happens, ketones build up in the body, which can be fatal if not found and treated fast. One of the ketones is acetone, which can cause the breath to smell like nail polish. It can also smell sweet and fruity as a result of ketoacidosis. If your dog’s breath suddenly smells different, sweet, or like acetone, you must seek an emergency vet right away.

Kidney or Liver diseases

Kidney disease can cause bad breath. Many dogs experience this side effect because of excessive urea in the blood. While healthy kidneys will filter out urea, damaged kidneys are not able to do so. The excess creates a very foul odor that smells like ammonia or urine. For your dog, these changes can cause them to experience changes in taste and an aversion to certain high-protein foods.

Similarly, late-stage liver disease in dogs causes bad breath. A vet might describe this as fetor hepaticus. Fetor hepaticus occurs when the breath has a strong and musty smell. Because the liver cannot filter toxic substances from the blood, sulfuric substances build up in the bloodstream. These substances then end up in the lungs, where they cause a distinctive, fecal-like odor.

Treating Bad Dog Breath

So, looking for how to fix bad breath in dogs? Treating bad breath in dogs is not always straightforward. The treatment depends on the cause of your dog’s bad breath, as there may be an underlying problem that needs veterinary care.

For Hygiene Problems

Do you brush your dog’s teeth twice a day? If not, poor oral hygiene may be to blame for your pooch’s bad breath. It’s not too late to start brushing your dog’s teeth, but if tartar has already built up, it is best to take them to the vet for a deep clean. After a thorough clean by the vet, you can keep on top of your pet’s oral health to prevent bad breath and tooth decay.

For Internal Health Problems

Your dog’s bad breath may be the result of disease. You know your dog best, so you know when something isn’t right with their health. But what conditions cause bad breath in dogs? In summary, diabetes, kidney disease, and liver disease can cause bad breath in dogs. At the first sign that your dog is unwell, make sure to call your vet for advice.

There are several signs of diabetes in dogs. These include excessive thirst, going to the toilet more often, lack of appetite, cloudy eyes, and recurring infections. Diabetes is a long-term condition that requires lifelong treatment. Controlling diabetes will involve insulin injections, controlled feeding, and controlled exercise.

The symptoms of kidney disease include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, pale gums, mouth ulcers, excessive thirst, and soiling in the home. Your vet will manage your pet’s kidney disease through a special diet, supplements, fluid therapy, and kidney dialysis.

Liver disease in dogs manifests as a lack of appetite, vomiting, stomach ulcers, diarrhea, seizures, and jaundice. Your vet will manage the disease by providing supportive therapy. This might include giving fluid therapy, medications to control vomiting, and surgery to remove cysts or gallstones. The treatment should be tailored to the liver biopsy findings where possible.

internal health problems
Internal health problems can cause bad breath.

Preventing Bad Dog Breath

In some cases, bad breath in dogs is preventable or manageable. You may consider regular brushing, feeding them carrots, and providing dental chews to prevent this problem. Feeding your pup plain yogurt or apple cider vinegar may provide some temporary relief, but will not address the underlying cause of the problem. In any case, asking how to fix bad breath in dogs is not as productive as finding ways to prevent it, as prevention is the best policy.

Brushing regularly

Dogs should have their teeth brushed twice a day, or thrice a week at a minimum. Regular brushing helps to prevent tartar buildup on the teeth. When brushing your dog’s teeth, be sure to use a toothpaste made especially for dogs, rather than toothpaste for humans.

Garnish Dog Food with Parsley

Although there is little science behind it, parsley is believed to act as a deodorizer with its strong, herbaceous smell. One study on humans refutes this claim. Compared to green tea, parsley-seed oil, along with chewing gum and mints, did not reduce the concentration of volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth. This may be because of green tea’s disinfectant and deodorant activities, unlike parsley. Even so, some owners swear by adding parsley to their pet’s meal to reduce bad breath. If you choose to add parsley to your dog’s food, only use the curly variety – spring parsley, a member of the carrot family, is highly toxic to dogs. Watch your serving sizes, too, as curly parsley contains a toxic compound called furanocoumarin.

Feed Them Carrots

Carrots are naturally abrasive and can help to remove dirt and plaque from the teeth. But are they safe for dogs? Raw and cooked carrots alike are extremely healthy options for dogs, providing an abundance of vitamins and essential nutrients. However, you must be sure to cut whole carrots and carrot sticks into smaller chunks to prevent choking. This is especially true for small dogs. You should also monitor your pooch for diarrhea when giving them carrots. Carrots are high in fiber, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea in excess.

A Teaspoon of Apple Cider

Apple cider vinegar is made using fermented apples and water. It comes with a wide range of health benefits, including improving digestion, lowering blood sugar, increasing satiety, and reduces inflammation in the body. It also has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties. These benefits suggest that apple cider vinegar may be able to play a role in reducing bad breath. However, there are no credible studies to suggest that this is true. Some owners add apple cider vinegar to their pet’s food at a rate of one teaspoon for a 50-pound pooch. However, do not simply give your pet apple cider vinegar to mask the problem. Be sure to investigate the cause of your dog’s bad breath with the help of your vet.

Yogurt Diet

Plain yogurt may be able to reduce levels of odor-causing compounds, like hydrogen sulfide, in the mouth. Because of this, some owners add one or two teaspoons of plain yogurt to their pet’s daily meals. However, yogurt must be given with caution. First and foremost, many dogs are lactose intolerant. This means that eating yogurt regularly can cause painful stomach upsets and diarrhea. Second, yogurt may be made with toxic sugar substitutes like xylitol. As such, yogurt is not a good long-term solution for your pup’s bad breath. So, when asking how to fix bad breath in dogs, consider other options instead.

Let Them Chew

There are many dental chews on the market. By giving your dog plenty of chew toys, you can help to ensure their dental health is taken care of. Some dental chews and toys are designed specially to reach between the teeth, while others are made with bristles or bumps to massage the gums. As always, be sure to monitor your dog when they chew on their toys, and do not give them toys that they could choke on.

How to Fix Bad Breath in Dogs – FAQ

Have any more questions about bad breath in dogs? Feel free to refer to our Frequently Asked Questions section for more details about how to fix bad breath in dogs. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

Can dogs use human toothpaste?

Human toothpaste is not safe for dogs. The reason? Many kinds of toothpaste made for humans contain xylitol, fluoride, and other harmful ingredients that can severely harm your pup. Xylitol can cause fatal blood sugar drops in dogs, while fluoride causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is best to buy toothpaste made especially for dogs to eliminate these risks. Not only are they safer, but some pet toothpaste is made with tasty flavoring to encourage your pet to accept regular brushing. You may find dog toothpaste with beef flavoring, for example.

Can my dog eat mint?

Most types of mint are safe for dogs. In fact, many dog treats contain mint to freshen the breath and aid with digestion. Mint also contains antioxidants and flavonoids, which give your pet’s immune system a boost. However, one type of mint is not safe for dogs. This mint is called English pennyroyal mint. English pennyroyal mint contains pulegone, which is not only toxic to dogs, but people too. Pulegone causes fatal liver damage and impacts other organs when eaten in large amounts. In one study, English pennyroyal was shown to cause massive hepatocellular necrosis in a dog. This caused extreme symptoms, including coughing up blood, bleeding from the nose, and severe diarrhea.

Are dogs allowed to eat candies?

Dogs should not be allowed to eat candy. This is because candy made for humans is often made with xylitol, a sugar substitute. This ingredient is highly toxic to your dog. Chocolate in particular is highly toxic to dogs. When ingested, chocolate causes vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and an accelerated heart rate in dogs. If you wish to give your dog a candy substitute, it is best to look for healthy dog treats.

Can stomach issues cause bad breath in dogs?

Stomach problems are a leading cause of bad breath in dogs. One such problem is megaesophagus, which can cause bad breath. This is because dogs with megaesophagus regularly regurgitate their food, which can become retained in the esophagus. Similarly, a condition that causes your dog to regularly vomit can cause a lingering smell. Excessive gas can also cause bad breath in dogs if your dog regularly belches to release gas.

Does Dental Cleaning Hurt Your Pet?

A thorough dental clean at the vets can be uncomfortable and stressful for your pooch. As such, your dog will be put under anesthesia for the procedure. Discomfort can arise from tooth extraction, plaque removal, and manipulation of the teeth and gums in general. While this may sound counterproductive, this temporary discomfort will allow your pet to have a pain-free mouth in the future!

When asking how to fix bad breath in dogs, we must first understand what causes it. Bad breath in dogs is usually the result of poor oral hygiene, poor diet, or ill-health. The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Overall, you can help to prevent bad breath in your pooch by regularly brushing their teeth and scheduling check-ups with your vet.

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