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Understanding the common cause of halitosis (dog breath) and ways to improve it

Bad breath (halitosis) is a common problem in dogs and is often caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria, saliva, and food particles form plaque, which builds up in your dog’s mouth and causes bad breath, which can further develop into gingivitis, or, periodontal disease, which will make the breath even more unpleasant.

Causes of halitosis include:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)

  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)

  • Tooth abscess

  •  Foreign bodies in the mouth, such as a bone or hair

  • Oral ulceration

  • Feeding on decayed raw meat and high intake of canned food are some of the prominent causes

  • Build up of bacteria in their mouth, which results in the production of plaque. 

  • Decaying teeth

  • Infection around the mouth, especially folds of the lips

  • Oral diseases, including tonsillitis and trauma

  • Sinus infections or other respiratory diseases

  • Kidney disease and Diabetes mellitus

Any dog with bad breath should be examined by a veterinarian, as some causes of bad breath can cause severe and even fatal complications, if not treated promptly.

Remedies for Dog Bad Breath

  • Visit a veterinary doctor at least once a year, to get your dog’s teeth checked and cleaned.

  • Brush your dog's teeth on a regular basis, at least once a day.

  • Do not feed your dog with tinned food brands on a regular basis.

  • Prevent your dog from eating old bones and food scrapes.

  • Giving your dog a chew treat on a daily basis will help stimulate his gums, thereby reducing the bad breath.

  • Avoid including foods high in sugar content, in your dog’s diet.


Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the bad breath and help guide subsequent treatment recommendations. Some tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination

  • A complete oral exam, which may require a brief anaesthetic

  • Periodontal probing (a blunt probe that is used to check the gum/tooth interface) to identify gum and periodontal diseases

  • Full-mouth radiographs (X-rays) with a dental machine


Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of halitosis and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Initial therapy should be aimed at the underlying cause. This treatment may include:

  • Removal of foreign object if present

  • Treatment of any oral tumours as needed

  • Periodontal therapy and root planning (cleaning/scraping the teeth under the gums)

Home Care

Home care recommendations will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Some steps that you can take to help eliminate your dog's bad breath include:

  • Clean your dog’s teeth regularly to stop the bacteria build up; this is where the problem begins and where you should target your efforts.

  • If you fear the problem has got too far to recover or damage or the gums and teeth are visible you should contact your vet as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis of your pet.

  • Following dietary considerations recommended by your veterinarian. Special diets that may be beneficial include Hills T/D Canine