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Stinky dog breath? Your pet could have a bigger health issue.

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

There are plenty of not-so-cute things about dogs that we tolerate because we love them so much. Bad breath is one of them.

But what many pet owners don’t know is bad breath isn’t something you should put up with. In fact, dog breath isn’t supposed to be offensive. If your dog has puppy halitosis, there’s a good chance it’s because of an underlying nutrition or health issue. Luckily, it’s nothing a proper diet and yearly check-up can’t fix.

What causes bad breath in dogs?

Oral health issues

One of the most common causes of bad breath (or halitosis) in dogs is periodontal disease– yep, grimy teeth. But not just any grimy teeth. Like human teeth, dog teeth accumulate plaque. When enough plaque builds up, dog gums become inflamed, which causes gingivitis. As time passes, the plaque ages and the gums become more swollen until the gingivitis has progressed into full-on periodontitis. At that point, the bacteria in your dog’s mouth change from healthy bacteria used for digesting food into destructive bacteria that can do them harm.[1] And yes, make their breath stink.

Brushing your dog’s teeth and giving him treats designed to clean his teeth can help prevent periodontitis. We recommend pawTree’s Dental Sticks to fight tartar buildup. Dental Sticks work on three levels: They support good, healthy, vibrant teeth by mechanically breaking off tartar on your dog's teeth. The ingredients help to decrease the viscosity of the biofilm on the teeth. And the addition of parsley and spearmint helps freshen breath.

A word about brushing your dog’s teeth

Aside from being thoughtful about your dog’s diet, you can also brush your dog’s teeth to prevent plaque and tartar buildup! Keep in mind that you should never use toothpaste for humans– it will often contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs (like xylitol).[3] Use toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs, which you can find at specialty pet stores and grocery stores.

Kidney disease

If your dog’s breath smells like feces or urine, that may be a symptom of kidney disease. Your dog’s kidneys filter out waste and toxins. If they aren’t working correctly, that will cause a build-up of harmful waste products in the body. Kidney disease can’t be treated at home; if you suspect kidney malfunction, you should see your vet.

Another reason your dog has poopy breath may be that they’ve eaten poop, which is a separate issue. Dogs eat poop for a variety of different reasons. One reason you can help rule out with proper nutrition is gastrointestinal or tummy issues. Supporting your dog’s intestinal tract with probiotics will not only improve their digestion but can also improve their mood and reduce anxiety. Gastro Pro Plus for dogs and cats is a combination of probiotics, prebiotics, and enzymes that keep your pet’s digestive tract happy and healthy.

Liver Disease

Particularly rancid breath combined with vomiting and yellowing gums usually indicates a liver problem. Taking your dog to the vet for a yearly exam is the best way to prevent your dog from contracting liver disease, which if left unchecked, can be life-threatening. Your dog’s standard vaccinations (especially those that protect against leptospirosis) are critical for protecting your pet’s liver against disease and infection.


If you notice that your dog’s breath has sweet or fruity undertones, it may be a symptom of canine diabetes.[3] Diabetes in dogs is a serious condition, but it is also treatable. Other symptoms may include intense thirst, cloudy eyes, and frequently needing to urinate. Talk with your vet if you suspect your dog may be diabetic.

When health issues like these are resolved your dog’s bad breath should go away!



About the Author

Kristi Diaz MD

Kristi is a retired anesthesiologist who loves helping people take good care of their pets.


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