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Ask Dr. Aziza: Should I Be Concerned About My Dog's Bad Breath?

written by Ellie Walker

Bad breath in dogs, also known as Halitosis, is a foul odor that comes from the mouth or oral cavity. The most common cause of halitosis is periodontal disease, which is a widespread concern in veterinary medicine. Let’s look into some of the causes of bad breath in dogs as well as how it can be treated and prevented in the future.

What causes bad breath in dogs?

There are five main reasons why a dog could have bad breath – let’s discuss each one more closely.

  • Dental plaque: Plaque is a buildup of bacteria that accumulates on teeth. When plaque is not removed with a toothbrush it becomes harder, developing into calculus. As the bacteria changes during this process, it releases an odor-causing halitosis.

  • Funky food: Simply put, some food just stinks! Even if our dogs love how it tastes, bad-smelling food can cause bad breath in dogs – especially if the dog does not get their teeth brushed daily.

  • Metabolic disease: Certain diseases, such as Diabetes Mellitus and Uremia, can cause the odor in the mouth to change into something that smells…off.

  • Non-periodontal oral disease: Dogs can develop other issues within their oral cavity, like masses or tumors. These can become infected, leading to a very pronounced and off-putting odor.

  • Skin disease: Some dog breeds, including Pugs and French Bulldogs, come with extra wrinkles and skin folds. While these features help make them into the beauties they are, moisture can get trapped in their skin folds, leading to skin infections. If skin infections occur in folds around the mouth, they can be mistakenly identified as halitosis.

If you notice your dog has started to develop bad breath, your first step should be to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to rule out any potential health issues. Once your pup has been given a clean bill of health, you can start to look into how you can treat their bad breath and prevent it from returning.

How can bad breath in dogs be treated and prevented?

Now that we have a better understanding of what causes bad breath in dogs, let’s take a look at some of the ways that it can be treated and prevented.

  • Toothbrushing: The best way to prevent bad breath in dogs is the most simple – toothbrushing! It’s recommended to brush your dog's teeth twice a day but even if it only happens twice a week, consistent toothbrushing is better than no brushing at all.

  • Dental cleaning: Once plaque has formed and transformed into calculus, it cannot be removed with toothbrushing. The ideal treatment is to have a professional deep teeth cleaning, where your veterinarian will remove the tough, sticky calculus, and polish the teeth. Most pet parents will smell an immediate difference after the procedure is finished.

  • Good diet: It’s important for your pet to be fed a high-quality, well-balanced diet that supports their whole body. The great thing about Freshpet is that they have such a wide selection of food for dogs, you can easily find a recipe that suits your dog’s needs. For instance, if your pup has a history of gassiness or indigestion, try Freshpet® Select Sensitive Stomach & Skin. Alternatively, if they have a food allergy, try a novel protein diet trial with Vital® Grain Free Salmon and Ocean Whitefish. And don’t forget to make sure your dog treats are also healthy, like Freshpet’s Dog Joy® Turkey Bacon fresh treats.

  • Annual and bi-annual exams: As we discussed earlier, bad breath in dogs can be a sign of an underlying health condition. Fortunately, consistent physical exams and routine wellness diagnostics, like bloodwork, will help to identify diseases that can cause bad breath much earlier. The earlier that a disease is identified, the sooner your veterinarian can begin treatment, and the better the prognosis.

  • Home oral care: There are a number of products on the market that do a great job at slowing down the progression of periodontal disease, which improves your pet’s breath. For recommendations of which products are right for your pet, speak to your veterinarian.

Bad breath in dogs can be unpleasant, but the good news is that dealing with it is often fairly easy! By feeding your dog a high-quality diet and getting into a regular oral care routine, you can minimize your dog’s risk of ongoing bad breath.

A person holding a black and white dog reaching for a Freshpet recipe.

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