4 Causes of Dog Bad Breath and How To Treat Them.

dog bad breath

The biggest cause of dog bad breath is bad bacteria that triggers tooth decay in dogs, and a bad smell from sulfur compounds deposited in teeth.

VCA Animal Hospitals

“Why does my dogs breath smell so bad?”

Yes, dogs get that occasional ‘morning breath’ like us humans. However, persistent bad breath in dogs could be a sign of something more serious. Possibly an underlying health problem that, if not checked and treated early, could escalate to a severe level.

So, what causes a dog bad breath?

First, let’s burst a myth.

Bad breath in dogs does not come from the air in the lungs or the dog’s stomach (although this can be a possibility). The problem commonly originates from the mouth.

Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?

Dog bad breath or halitosis in dogs is an unpleasant odor from your dog’s oral cavity. There are four common causes of bad dog breath;

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Diet 
  • Health problems 
  • Infections

Poor dental hygiene

According to the research “The Effect of Dental Products and Natural Chews on Canine Oral Bacteria“, canine dental hygiene is not only important for healthy teeth and gums, but it also ensures that internal organs like the kidney, heart, and liver stay healthy. 

Back in the day, dogs lived in the wild where they would constantly chew on animal bones, nourishing their bodies and cleaning their teeth in the process. Since dogs became domesticated, their diet has changed from meaty bones to a less chewy delicacy comprising mainly of wet foods. Your furry friend now gulps down his food in minutes instead of chewing it for a few minutes. 

“Wet foods are a common culprit for large food deposits in your dog’s teeth.

When your dog doesn’t get its teeth cleaned regularly, the food deposits in the mouth become a breeding ground for bad bacteria. Bad bacteria lead to the growth of plaque and tartar. As plaque accumulates in the dog’s mouth, it causes canine gingivitis or gum inflammation. Eventually, canine gingivitis triggers periodontitis or gum disease which damages the soft tissue support around the teeth, leading to tooth loss in dogs.

The horrors don’t end there. 

Damage to the supportive tissues around the teeth exposes the blood vessels. Bad bacteria can travel through the blood vessels and infect other parts of the body- possibly body organs such as the heart and liver. When this happens, medical attention is required immediately or the dog might lose its life. 


A good diet not only improves the health of your dog, but it also ensures that your furry friend does not develop a stinking breath. Yet, some foods can cause bad breath in dogs and most of these are foods consumed by humans. 

Dairy products

A lactose-intolerant dog is likely to develop bad dog breath if it frequently consumes dairy products like cheese, yogurt, or milk. Removing dairy products from the dog’s diet will help tone down the bad dog’s breath. 


A compound in fish called trimethylamine can cause bad breath in dogs. Although fish is a high source of Omega-3 for dogs, you may have to replace it with alternatives if your dog’s breath has that fishy odor. A great alternative would bedog supplements with Omega-3 in them. 


When feeding your dog a raw diet, certain types of meat can trigger bad breath because they are high in proteins. Red meat and offals like liver and kidney are common triggers of bad dog breath. 

Garlic and onions

Yep, foods containing garlic and onions will make your dog’s breath stink. Also, you should not feed your dog garlic or onions because both foods contain compounds known to be toxic to dogs. 


Sugar can cause bad dog breath because of the bad bacteria that feed on sugary foods. The decomposing sugar releases acids that cause tooth decay and subsequently bad breath. 

Health problems

Perhaps your dog’s bad breath is a symptom of an even bigger health issue. Underlying health conditions like kidney disease, canine diabetes, or heart disease can all trigger halitosis in dogs. If your dog’s breath suddenly stinks, get them checked by a vet. 


As mentioned before, infections like gingivitis or periodontal disease can cause dog bad breath. Throat infections in dogs can also trigger canine halitosis. 

How to get rid of dog bad breath?

Identify the problem

The first step to getting rid of dog bad breath is to identify the source of the problem. If you suspect plaque and tartar buildup, simply checking your dog’s teeth can help you spot the early signs. Plaque buildup usually has a yellowish-brown tinge and usually forms at the base of the dog’s teeth. 

dog bad breath plaque

Visit the vet

Take your dog for a health check-up as well. A professional vet will run a diagnosis and discover where the problem is. If the dog’s bad breath is solely from the mouth, then the vet will prescribe remedies to get rid of bad dog breath. We will also offer natural remedies for bad breath in dogs later in the post. 

A dental check also helps reveal oral tumors and any other diseases that require immediate medical attention. Early treatment helps prevent oral infections from spreading to other body organs. Also, nowadays there are plenty of online dog tooth health treatment plans you can sign up for and manage your dog’s oral health at home.

Brush your dog’s teeth

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth reduces the buildup of plaque and tartar. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles, a curved design to reach all angles, and a firm grip. Going for dog toothbrushes that are bio-friendly and eco-friendly is an added advantage. 

Change your dog’s diet

Replace any food that causes your dog bad breath with equally healthy alternatives. Add foods that control bad breath while eliminating those making your dog’s breath stinky, like fish. If you do not know where to start, see our raw diet for Dogs ebook for inspiration. 

Hydrate your dog

Drinking plenty of water flushes away bad bacteria in your dog’s mouth. Ensure your dog has clean water to drink at all times. Add in some Bullyade to boost your dog’s drinking water with the necessary electrolytes for dogs. 

Soft chews 

Soft chews or dental treats have proven to improve a dog’s breath by naturally getting rid of bad bacteria in the mouth. As the dog chews on the treat, it helps break down plaque and tartar in teeth, just like in the old days in the wild. You can also invest in chew toys to keep your dog busy and as a remedy for preventing bad breath. 

What are the natural remedies for dog bad breath?

You can easily get rid of mild dog bad breath at home with these proven natural remedies;


Small amounts of parsley are safe for your dog and it can help in reducing bad breath. Mix a little parsley with water and blend into a fine paste. Add this paste to the dog’s food or drinking water to reduce bad breath. Parsley is rich in antioxidants that can reduce inflammatory conditions too. 


Carrots are a simple but healthy chewy snack for your dogs. As your dog knows on a carrot stick, it helps clean the dog’s teeth which reduces the chances of plaque and tartar building up. Carrots are great for teething puppies too. 

Homemade dog treats

Want to make your dog’s breath fresher? Easy, you can make homemade breath mints with oats, eggs, coconut oil, parsley, and water as the main ingredients. You can add in some mint to amplify the freshness. Mix everything into a dough and cut the dough into small shapes as you do when making cookies. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in 320℉ then serve when cool. You may also want to check our comprehensive recipe of homemade dog treats that will help your dog’s oral health. 

Coconut oil

Coconut oil for dogs not only helps boost your dog’s immune system, but it is also a natural remedy for bad dog breath. Add a teaspoon of coconut oil to your dog’s food or to your dog’s toothbrush when brushing its teeth. Start with small doses to prevent stomach aches. 

How to cure halitosis in dogs?

“My dog has halitosis, what should I do?”

The only way to treat dog bad breath or halitosis in dogs is to eliminate the trigger of this dental disease, which is bad bacteria. Most of the methods we covered for getting rid of bad breath should eventually help treat halitosis. 


  1. Is bad breath in dogs a sign of illness?

    Yes, dog bad breath could be a sign of diseases such as periodontal disease, gingivitis, or throat infection. Most teeth and gum diseses are caused by the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the dog’s mouth.

  2. Do dental chews help with bad breath?

    Yes dental chews are a quick way to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Some dental chews contain parsley or mint which are active ingredients for preventing bad breath in dogs

  3. How do you treat Halitosis in dogs?

    You can cure halitosis in dogs by eliminating the bad bacteria that causes plaque and tartar in dogs mouth.

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