Bad Breath in Dogs

Bad Breath in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Bad Breath?

Bad breath in your canine family member can come from several sources, all of which should be evaluated by your veterinary professional and appropriate treatment and follow up maintained.  Some of the sources of that bad breath can be quite serious and even life threatening for your beloved doggy family member. Periodontal disease, illnesses like liver disease, or even cancer can result when oral health is not maintained.

Bad breath in dogs can be simply defined as a foul odor which is noted to be coming from the mouth or oral cavity of your dog.

Symptoms of Bad Breath in Dogs

The main symptom of bad breath is pretty obvious - that obnoxious, foul smelling odor that’s coming from your dog’s mouth when he’s close. But, because there are multiple causes for bad breath in dogs, here are some other things you may notice about your pet:

  • Swollen, puffy gums
  • Blood tinged saliva or bleeding gums
  • Breath that smells fruity or sweet versus the foul smelling breath which is most obvious


The types of bad breath in dogs is based upon the cause of it.  Here are some areas in which the causes can be found:

  • Periodontal disease - Gum disease, gingivitis, periodontitis
  • Systemic disease - Diabetes, kidney disease or liver disease
  • Cancer in the oral cavity of the ear, nose and throat area (oral tumors or laryngeal disorders)

Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs

The causes of bad breath in dogs can be as simple as food trapped between teeth or as serious as cancer.  Here are some of the known causes of bad breath in dogs:

  • The primary cause of bad breath is periodontal or gum disease; your dog can suffer from gum diseases and infections in his mouth just like you and with the same results (plaque and tartar development, deterioration of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth which lead to bone and tooth loss with systemic issues to follow as the bacteria get to travel throughout the body in the bloodstream)
  • Diabetes - This systemic disease will demonstrate with a sweet, fruity smell to the breath along with the standard symptoms of excessive drinking and urinating of the host, whether human or canine
  • Liver Disease - The smell of the breath of your canine will be really foul if liver disease is present along with vomiting, decreased appetite and yellow discoloration to the corneas of your pet’s corneas or gums
  • Oral Cancer Tumors - The breath will be foul, and swollen, abscessed-appearing growths may be noted in the oral cavity or in the ear, nose and throat areas

Diagnosis of Bad Breath in Dogs

If your pet demonstrates bad breath with any of these symptoms, it is important to get your veterinary professional involved sooner rather than later for the health of your canine family member.  Your vet will need some input from you, so prepare yourself to supply information regarding your pet’s dietary regimen, any oral cleaning regimens currently in place and the duration of those activities, exercise habits and general behavior, including the duration and severity of the bad breath you’ve noticed.  

Your vet will do a physical examination which will include the oral cavity of the patient and other parts of your pet’s body.  Your vet will need to eliminate as many of the other causes of the bad breath as possible and this may require some blood work, urine testing and stool samples to be taken for lab evaluation. If the cause is found in the oral cavity, he will likely need to take x-rays of the teeth and bony structures of the mouth to determine the extent of the damage being done by the periodontal or gum disease.    

If the cause is not found in the oral cavity, then you should expect that your vet will need to do some imaging studies (radiography or x-rays, CT scanning or MRI) to further differentiate his potential diagnosis.  Once he has determined the cause of the bad breath, an appropriate treatment plan will be developed and initiated.

Treatment of Bad Breath in Dogs

Treatment plans for the bad breath in your canine will be dependent upon the cause which has been discovered for the condition.  

If the cause is oral inflammation and the associated gum/periodontal disease, your vet will need to schedule a full examination and treatment to be done under anesthesia.  This examination and the subsequent treatment will likely be similar to those needed by humans with regard to gum disease but will be done under anesthesia conditions.  Follow up care will possibly involve the administration of antibiotics to treat any infections and, without a doubt, you will be required to adopt and maintain an oral cleaning regimen which your vet will recommend to be done on a regular basis, if not daily then it would be prudent to expect that it would need to be done at least weekly.  The more often it can be done will better benefit your pet’s health.

If the cause is determined to be a systemic one, like diabetes, kidney disease or liver disease, then the treatment plan would be commensurate with the care needed for any of those diagnoses. If the cause is determined to be cancer in the oral cavity, expect that a surgical removal with or without radiation treatments would be recommended.

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Recovery of Bad Breath in Dogs

Bad breath in dogs is not normal and should not be looked upon by any pet parent as though it is normal.  Bad breath is a signal that something is not right inside your pet and needs attention.  Even if your pet’s diagnosis is oral inflammation, appropriate treatment is still necessary, as that inflammation leads to oral infections.  And those infections are being transported everywhere in your pet’s body, into tissue type and organ in his body.  The implications to that process can be devastating for your pet and your family.  Expect that you will find yourself brushing the teeth of your beloved pet several times a week to keep him healthy.

Bad breath could be a symptom of periodontal disease or something more serious. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.