Ask a Vet: Dog Bad Breath

My dog’s breath is really gross. What can be done?

Bad breath is a common complaint among dog owners. It can be hard to enjoy being Dog Bad Breathclose to your dog when his breath drives you away. While identifying dog bad breath is easy, finding the underlying cause may be more difficult as there are a variety of causes.

Dog Bad Breath: Disorders of the Mouth

The most common cause of dog bad breath is some form of dental disease. When dogs develop periodontal disease in which the supporting structures around the teeth become infected, bad breath usually develops. One of the worst causes of bad breath is a poorly understood disease called Chronic Ulcerative Paradental Stomatitis, where the gum and cheek tissues become inflamed and ulcerated due to a reaction to bacteria-containing plaque on the tooth surface.  Dogs with this disease have terrible breath which responds poorly to most types of treatment. Additional causes of bad breath that originates within the mouth include foreign bodies like sticks or bones which wedge themselves between the teeth or across the roof of the mouth, and oral tumors.

Dog Bad Breath: Disorders of the Gastrointestinal System

Disorders of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine can also result in dog bad breath. Gastric reflux, where stomach acid comes in contact with the lining of the esophagus, will result in ulceration of the esophagus and can lead to bad breath. Slow or delayed emptying of food from the stomach will also contribute to bad breath. Changes in normal intestinal bacteria can result from inflammatory bowel disease or pancreatic enzyme deficiencies. These changes in bacterial colonies can result in dog bad breath. Usually dogs with one or more of these gastrointestinal diseases will have other signs like weight loss, vomiting, or diarrhea as well. Some medications can change the normal bacterial flora in the intestine which will have the same effect as intestinal disease.

Dog Bad Breath: Disorders of Skin

Occasionally, skin infections can result in dog bad breath. Infections of the lower lips can cause severe odor which people often mistake for bad breath. An area the size of a pencil eraser can be infected and the dog will appear to have severe bad breath. Dogs who lick or groom their anal area or other areas of infected skin can have bad breath, especially if they have anal gland problems.

Dog Bad Breath: Systemic Illnesses

Finally, dogs with systemic illnesses can have bad breath due to toxins that build Dog and Bad Breathup in the bloodstream during these illnesses. Both kidney failure and diabetes can result in bad breath in dogs.

Dog Bad Breath: Treating Bad Breath in Your Dog

If your dog has bad breath, he needs to be examined by your veterinarian. A complete physical examination will be performed and blood tests may be recommended. If no other cause can be found, a complete dental examination with teeth cleaning and dental x-rays should be performed to look for and treat periodontal disease. Hopefully your dog’s bad breath will be a thing of the past.

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Dr Jill Christofferson

Jill Christofferson, DVM is an experienced veterinary general practitioner. Her professional interests include ophthalmology, dentistry, and reproduction.

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Comments

  1. avatar cjpmpd says:

    My little 10yr old Pomeranian-Terrier has really bad breath but also has Cushing’s disease. Can this be a by-product of the disease? She never really had the breath problem until after the Cushing’s was diagnosed.
    Thanks!

    1. It is very unlikely that the Cushing’s Disease is related to your pets bad breath. I can not think of a logical medical connection to the two problems. More likely your dog has dental disease that is causing the bad breath. Please consult your primary care veterinarian who can examine for dental disease and periodontal disease and suggest treatment that will help eliminate this situation. Thank you for reading!