While nobody expects their dog’s breath to smell like a spring breeze, stinky dog breath can make even the most devoted dog parent pull away when their pup wants to show affection. The good news is, there are several natural ways to treat your dog’s bad breath so you can enjoy getting up close and personal again! Keep reading to learn what causes bad breath in dogs, and how to freshen things up.
Why Dogs Can Have Bad Breath
Dogs can have bad breath (halitosis) for a number of reasons, just like people. The most common causes of bad breath in dogs revolve around oral health issues, which can cause a foul or fishy odor:
Plaque & Tartar Buildup
The number one cause of bad breath in dogs is aging plaque buildup. Plaque is the slimy, bacteria-rich biofilm on the tooth surface. Over time plaque hardens into tartar, a brownish substance that traps even more bacteria.
When enough tartar and plaque build up along the gumline, the bacteria can cause inflammation in the gums (gingivitis), which contributes to bad breath.
Just like people, dogs can get cavities. While gum disease is much more common in dogs, tooth decay can also cause bad breath.
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It’s common for puppies who are teething to have bad breath until their new adult teeth have fully come in.
The same bacteria that leads to gum disease can also cause a tooth or mouth infection, especially if your dog has a wound in their mouth from a splinter or other foreign object. In addition to bad breath, pain from an oral infection could cause your dog to eat less or eat more slowly.
Dogs can get benign and malignant tumors in their mouths. Pain and bad breath are common symptoms.
Something They Ate
Bad breath in dogs can also be caused by eating something icky (poop, garbage), something toxic (plants, cocoa mulch), or objects that can’t be digested. Please contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog has eaten something they shouldn’t.
Stomach & Digestive Problems
Gastrointestinal issues can cause bad breath in dogs because they disrupt the natural pathway that digested food and gas are meant to follow. An intestinal blockage, acid reflux or any digestive upset that causes vomiting will make your dog’s breath worse. If this is the case, your dog will likely also have terrible-smelling gas and irregular stools.
Sudden Bad Breath in Dogs
Sudden bad breath can be caused by a bit of food stuck somewhere between teeth and/or gum tissue, so take a look inside your dog’s mouth (if they let you) to see if you can spot anything.
At-Home Treatments for Stinky Dog Breath
There are many different natural ways to help treat or prevent bad breath in dogs. These tips can also help prevent bad breath from coming back and promote overall wellness.
Brushing Is Best
Brushing your dog’s teeth is the simplest and most effective way to improve oral health and bad breath. Be sure to choose a toothpaste formulated for dogs (toothpaste for humans has ingredients toxic to dogs) and slowly introduce the new routine. Most vets recommend daily brushing, but a minimum of twice a week is a good starting point. For more on how to brush your dog’s teeth, check out our guide to keeping your pet’s teeth healthy.
Dental Chew Treats
Dental treats for dogs are designed to scrub away plaque and tartar buildup. Dental chew treats are the next best thing to brushing, and an effective complement. Make sure to choose a size and texture appropriate for your dog’s breed. Stella & Chewy’s offers vet-formulated dental treats for dogs of every size!
Water & Additives
Making sure your dog always has fresh water in a clean bowl is part of being a good dog parent – and it can also promote fresh breath. Dehydration can cause dry mouth in dogs, and when there’s not enough saliva to rinse away bacteria it can contribute to bad breath. In addition to fresh water, you can try these hydrating dog foods.
Water additives for dogs aren’t a replacement for brushing, but they can help treat bad breath because they have enzymatic ingredients that break down tartar. Dogs with sensitive stomachs may refuse water with additives, or experience digestive upset. Just make sure you use a water additive formulated specifically for dogs, not for humans!
You can try adding half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your dog’s water bowl, or adding one teaspoon of a fresh coriander infusion to your dog’s water.
To prepare the infusion, soak a few coriander leaves in a cup of hot water, then let cool, cover and refrigerate. Other dog-safe options for an herbal infusion include cilantro and sage. All three of these herbs have antibacterial properties.
Adding a teaspoon of freshly minced parsley to your dog’s food can also help freshen breath. Try a small amount in a little bit of food first, before mixing it into their whole meal. The chlorophyll in parsley has both antibacterial and deodorizing properties!
Stop unsupervised snacking that can give your dog death breath: make sure all trash cans and litter boxes in your house are secure or inaccessible to your dog. Watch your dog closely while outside so they don’t have a chance to scavenge litter, roadkill, diapers or other dangerous things.
Do a household safety check: make sure all your houseplants are safe for dogs, secure any household items that are toxic for dogs, and keep all human foods that are toxic for dogs out of reach.
You should also clean your dog’s food bowl daily, otherwise bacterial buildup in the bowl will contribute to bad breath.
Raw Dog Food
Consider a raw diet: raw dog food is nutrient-rich and includes ground bone and natural enzymes that promote clean teeth and oral health. Ground bone in raw dog foods can act as a natural toothbrush to help clean the surface of your dog’s teeth. Better nutrition supports healthy mouth and gum tissues, as well as immune function which is critical for fighting infection.
“Ever since switching to Stella and Chewy’s raw patties I have noticed a tremendous difference in my pup’s health. His skin and coat are flawless, his breath smells better, and his stomach is better than it’s ever been! These freeze dried patties are so convenient for when I forget to take out frozen patties.” – Zerotheauss
Professional Help for Bad Dog Breath
If nothing is working, or if you notice a sudden change in your dog’s breath without an obvious reason (especially in senior dogs), check with your vet. In some cases, a dog’s chronic bad breath can be a sign of underlying health issues, such as diabetes, kidney disease or liver disease. Your vet may also recommend a professional dental cleaning. Learn more about introducing your dog to a raw food diet or check out Stella & Chewy’s Dental Delights to reap the benefits for their breath, energy levels, and overall health!
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