Vet Patrick von Heimendahl explains the causes of bad breath and when to be concerned

February 14, 2024

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Most dog owners are no strangers to the many smells that come with pet ownership, but one that often raises concerns is bad dog breath. While it’s not uncommon for dogs to have bad breath from time to time, persistent bad breath, or halitosis, can indicate underlying health issues that require attention.

We have put together the following article about the causes of bad dog breath to help you determine what is normal and what may be problematic. If you are after some advice on routine dental care, such as a demonstration of how to brush your dogs teeth, our nurses will be happy to help.

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Normal causes of bad dog breath

Occasional bad breath in dogs is not unusual and can be attributed to factors like eating smelly foods, chewing on certain toys, or simply waking up from a nap. If your dog’s breath is only temporarily bad and improves after a short time, it’s likely nothing to worry about. Factors that may affect breath include;

  • Diet: The food your dog eats can have a significant impact on their breath. Some dog foods may contribute to stronger odours, whilst high-quality diets teamed with practising good dental hygiene can help minimise odour.
  • Oral hygiene: Just like humans, dogs need proper dental care. Without it, plaque and tartar can build up, leading to bad breath. Regular brushing and dental check-ups are essential.
  • Chewing habits: Dogs often chew on various objects that can affect their breath. However, the action of chewing on dental toys and (safe) bones can help naturally clean their teeth and reduce bad breath.

Abnormal causes of bad dog breath

There are a range of issues that can cause or contribute to bad breath in dogs, including;

  • Dental disease: Persistent bad breath is often a sign of dental issues such as gum disease, tooth decay, or infected gums. These conditions can lead to severe health problems if left untreated.
  • Digestive problems: Digestive issues, such as gastrointestinal problems or an upset stomach, can result in odorous breath.
  • Oral infections: Infections in the mouth, throat, or respiratory system can lead to bad breath. These infections need prompt medical attention.
  • Underlying medical conditions: In some cases, bad breath can be a symptom of underlying medical conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, or liver problems.

Taking action

As with most health concerns, prevention is better than cure, and early intervention always gives the best chance of a speedy recovery. There are a few things you can do to help prevent or delay dental problems including;

  1. Regular dental care: Establish a routine of brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and providing dental chews or toys designed to promote good oral health.
  2. Diet: Feed your dog a balanced diet with dental-friendly options. Talk to our team for dietary recommendations.
  3. Veterinary check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with our team, including dental checks, to catch and address any potential issues early.
  4. Stay alert: Pay attention to changes in your dog’s breath. If it becomes consistently foul, contact us to book a dental check-up.
  5. Professional cleaning: When necessary, our vets may recommend a professional dental scale & polish to address any existing dental problems.

While some degree of bad dog breath is normal, persistent and foul-smelling breath should not be ignored. It’s often a sign of an underlying issue that requires attention. Regular dental care, a balanced diet, and vigilant observation of your dog’s health can help keep their breath fresh and imporve their their overall wellbeing.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact us on 01223 359021. We are always happy to advise.

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