What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs and How Do I Get Rid of It?

Medically reviewed by Nicole Wanner, DVM

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When your best friend develops bad breath, it can be an unpleasant experience for everyone. We've heard reports of people saying their dog's breath smells like decay, blood, sewer, or even poop!

Bad breath is not something to be taken lightly, and can often be an indicator of something more serious, like a sign of illness! Remember to search your dog's mouth for any foreign objects, if there is suddenly an unusual odor.

In this article, we will cover some of the most common causes of bad breath in dogs and solutions to try at home. 


Dental Issues - A dental problem usually causes bad breath in dogs - a buildup of plaque and tartar can cause gum disease. One of the most common reasons why a dog has bad breath is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can stem from gingivitis, which is the result of plaque buildup in a dog's mouth, which has been left untreated.

Dental problems in dogs can lead to blood infections and even death, so it’s critical to take your dog in for regular dental cleanings at the vet.

Teeth Issues - Another potential dental issue which can cause bad breath in dogs is broken teeth, be sure to give your dog's mouth a regular visual inspection. Your dog having an item stuck in their teeth can be the cause of bad breath - Bacteria can grow around the object if it's there for a long time, and this can create a foul odor. 

Can bad breath in dogs be caused by sickness?

Yes, the cause of bad breath in dogs can be because of sickness. Many diseases can cause bad breath, including but not limited to diabetes, kidney disease, or liver problems. Your veterinarian can make the best diagnoses of these more serious issues.

The wrong food can also cause bad breath in dogs. Believe it or not, the wrong size of kibble can cause stinky dog breath if it does not break down and effectively scrub their teeth. Another common cause of plaque and tooth decay is poor quality dog food with additives like sugars. 


The fast and easy answer is to brush your dog's teeth.

Much like humans, dogs can benefit from tooth brushing. You can pick up a special dog toothbrush at your local pet store or online.

Brushing your dog's teeth will go a long way to reducing the plaque and tartar buildup that can cause bad breath.

Also, consider annual cleanings by your veterinarian. Your vet can check for tooth decay and provide proper teeth cleaning and polishing. Your vet will put your dog under anesthesia for the cleaning procedure. This allows them to thoroughly clean the areas just under the gumline, which, as many of us know, is an unpleasant process to be awake for! Having your dog sleep through their cleaning also allows the vet to carefully check for teeth that are loose, cracked, or broken.

However, anesthesia can be risky in older dogs, so it’s best to brush your dog’s teeth regularly to help avoid any major problems. Some places offer anesthesia-free dental cleanings for dogs, but these are much less effective and can be stressful for your pet.

Try to give him something to chew on, such as dental chews, bones, and biscuits. In nature, dogs don't have access to toothbrushes, so they chew on things in their environment. Chewing will naturally reduce plaque buildup. You can purchase special dental chews at your local pet store or online retailer. However, try to avoid rawhides and pig’s ears, as these treats are not sanitary and can cause stomach upset. 

Can a proper diet resolve bad dog breath?

Diet can play an important role in eliminating bad dog breath. Provide your dog with quality dog food and fresh, clean water every day. Also, make sure they aren't eating anything they shouldn't be.


  • Coconut oil in food or on a toothbrush - Coconut oil can have several health benefits for your dog, including freshening breath. You can either add coconut oil to your dog's food or brush their teeth with it directly. Keep note that you should also continue a regular brushing schedule.
  • Water additive mouthwash for dogs - You can purchase mouthwash specifically for dogs that you can add to their water bowl. It functions much like a human mouthwash and should remove tartar and help fight plaque.
  • A proper diet – Keep your dog on a proper and healthy diet can make a large difference across the board for your dog; improved breath is just one small side effect. 
  • CBD Oil for Dogs – Studies have discussed how  CBD can influence your dogs endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system regulates many bodily systems and functions and has the potential to influence inflammation related to mouth health.  

If your dog has a larger issue, then we suggest you discuss CBD with your vet, studies are investigating its potential to help dogs with arthritis, old age, cancer, seizures, and more.



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