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Reasons for pets bad breath

Published on 7 Jun 2021

Labrador retriever dog with bone treat.

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is most likely caused by odour producing bacteria and tartar in your otherwise perfect I’m sure fur baby’s mouth! Although the most common cause, bad breath can also occur in dogs with clean teeth.

Some of the underlying causes of bad breath includes:

  • Dental disease – dogs and cats need daily attention to keep their mouths clean and free of odour producing bacteria and tartar (see tips below)
  • Other disease in the mouth (i.e an intra-oral mass or abscess)
  • Related to something they have eaten
  • Other medical issue requiring treatment – this can be the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract or other internal organs

If you notice your dog has bad breath, a hands-on examination from your local Vet would be a great place to start, and as soon as possible.

Home care oral hygiene tips for a fresh mouth:

1. Daily tooth brushing

Tooth brushing is for healthy mouths, and a way to help prevent a problem, not to treat one. It won’t help an already sore and unhealthy mouth, where it would only serve to cause pain and a negative association with tooth brushing.

This means tooth brushing needs to start before there’s a problem, and if there is a problem – only start after that has been treated.

When done properly, this is the gold standard way to look after your dog's teeth. The mechanical action of the brush on the tooth is what helps, and for it to be effective it needs to be done daily.

2. Good quality, balanced diet

A great diet’s importance can never be overlooked. Your dog needs to be fed a balanced and highly digestible diet, that is appropriate to their individual needs.

3. Chewing

There are many dental chews that help reduce the formation of plaque. It’s the mechanical action of the chew against the teeth that helps, so chew time is important.  If your dog is a one bite and swallow kind of kid, then unfortunately that chew isn’t doing anything at all to help clean the mouth.

4. Water additives

There are a few options here available for dogs where the additive is added to the drinking water as a way to help protect the teeth. It’s important to check the ingredient list and always run it by your Vet. Some can be helpful on a short term basis but a major issue to consider is that the taste or look could deter your dog from drinking as much water as they need.

5. Regular Veterinary checks

Regularly seeing your Veterinarian for a hands on check ensures early intervention if a problem arises, and most importantly prevention of bad breath and sore, sorry mouths.

Cat Dental Health

Dog Dental Health

Dr. Claire Jenkins VetChat founder & CEO

Dr. Claire Jenkins

VetChat founder & CEO, BVSc (Hons), MANZCVS (SAM)

Claire has spent the past 15 years caring for animals as a Small Animal Veterinarian in the UK, Melbourne and is now based in Sydney. She is passionate about early intervention and how easy access to the right advice drives better health outcomes for pets. Claire’s a life-long animal lover, passionate problem solver and adorer of her gorgeous Kelpie ‘Red’.

Dr. Claire Jenkins's Pets

  • RedRed

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