Close-up image of a side profile of a white curly hair dog.

Getting rid of doggie bad breath

Keep your dog’s breath fresh and clean by keeping his teeth healthy

If you’re like most people, you might think that bad breath and dogs go paw-in-paw, but the reality is that bad breath isn’t a laughing matter.

Like people, dogs aren’t supposed to have bad breath, so unless your dog is eating feces (or Limburger cheese), you might want to rethink the old notion of “doggie breath.”

Bad breath, bad teeth

In most cases, gingivitis is the cause of bad doggie breath. Yes, the very same ailment that dentists and mouthwash ads warn people about can plague your pup. Gingivitis is a mild gum disease that can cause redness and swelling of the gums, tooth abscesses, and even heart problems. If you don’t brush Rover’s teeth regularly, he could be at risk for these ailments, and you could risk nasty breath when he gives you a smooch.

Prevent gingivitis, plaque, and tartar buildup in your dog’s mouth by brushing his teeth at least twice a week, and preferably once a day. You’ll need to use toothpaste made for dogs (do not use human toothpaste – it’s harmful to pups) and brush all surfaces properly. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or veterinary technician and have them demonstrate how to brush your dog’s teeth.

There are also many hard, crunchy biscuits, snacks, and even toys made to keep your dog’s teeth clean and his breath fresh. Some dog food manufacturers make dental diets that do the same thing. These items work by scraping your dog’s teeth as he chews. Many snacks have chlorophyll – a natural odor destroyer – in them. There are even doggie breath mints on the market, but whether these really clear up bad doggie breath is questionable since they don’t address the underlying causes.

There’s been controversy over some of the hard snacks and toys, so if you doubt their safety, ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Finally, routine dental cleanings are important for your dog, just like they’re important for you.

Visit your veterinarian

What if your dog already has nasty breath? The first step is to take him to your veterinarian for a check-up. Don’t put this off. Many conditions, including cancer, bad teeth, diabetes, and abscesses can cause bad breath in dogs. Catching them quickly can improve a pup’s prognosis. Your veterinarian will likely examine your dog’s mouth and may need to perform further tests.

Some dogs are naturally prone to having bad teeth – if your dog is unlucky enough to be tartar-prone, you’re probably in for more trips to the doggie dentist than either of you would like. Brushing his teeth frequently will help keep the trips less frequent, but probably won’t eliminate them.

If your dog gets bad breath because he eats feces (a bad habit called coprophagy), you can stop this distasteful tendency by keeping the yard clean and by sprinkling a powder product onto his food that gives the feces a very bad taste (as if it needs it!). Ask your veterinarian about this product. If his breath still smells bad after you break the habit, you may still need to have your dog examined by a veterinarian. Remember, you should be enjoying your dog’s kisses, not running away from them!

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