Understanding And Managing Halitosis In Dogs

May 22, 2024

Canine Halitosis, or bad breath, is pretty common in dogs, and it’s something most dog owners will face at some point. But it’s not just about a stinky situation. Managing your dog’s bad breath is key to keeping them happy and healthy. When bad breath goes beyond the usual “dog breath,” it could signal something more serious that might need attention, like dog dental disease or even underlying health issues.

Understanding Halitosis in Dogs

Canine Halitosis, commonly known as bad breath, is a condition where a noticeably bad odor is present in the exhaled breath of your dog. This isn’t just “doggie breath,” which might be temporary after eating something really gross. True halitosis points to an ongoing issue that may be indicative of a bigger oral health or systemic issue with your dog.

In dogs, halitosis is often linked to the build-up of bacteria in the mouth, which produces that foul-smelling odor. It’s made up of volatile sulfur compounds (hence, it smells like rotten eggs sometimes). While many people think of it as simply bad breath, and part of dog parenting, it can be a symptom of underlying health issues, such as dental or periodontal disease. It can also be influenced by what the dog eats or other health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease​.

Common misconceptions about bad breath in dogs

The biggest misconception is that all bad breath in dogs is normal or just a result of what they’ve eaten. While it’s true that certain foods can cause temporary bad breath, persistent halitosis is typically not normal and often indicates health issues that you need to address. Another misconception is that bad breath is not a serious concern, just a gross thing you must deal with. This is definitely not the case, as addressing halitosis in dogs can prevent further oral health deterioration and often uncover bigger health issues you want to tackle.

Causes of Halitosis in Dogs

Oral health issues frequently cause halitosis in dogs. These include:

  • Plaque and Tartar: Plaque is a sticky deposit on teeth in which bacteria grow and bloom, and when it hardens, it turns into tartar. Both contribute significantly to bad breath, and bad oral care in general.
  • Gum Disease: This umbrella term contains a host of conditions like gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (infection and inflammation of the structures that support the teeth). These diseases not only cause bad breath but can lead to tooth loss and more severe health issues if untreated​. Again, it’s not just about a pretty mouth or great breath that you need to worry about when it comes to gum disease.

Several systemic health issues can also lead to halitosis, including:

  • Diabetes: In dogs with diabetes, an unusual fruity or sweet breath odor may indicate issues with their insulin levels and can be a sign of diabetic complications. You might want to talk to your vet about this fruity or sweet breath.
  • Kidney Disease: If the kidneys are not functioning properly, they may not filter out toxins as efficiently, which can lead to a buildup of wastes in the blood. This can make their breath smell almost like ammonia.
  • Liver Disease: Liver issues can cause a musty or sweet-smelling breath due to the liver’s inability to break down and eliminate toxins properly​. Again, this is likely something you’ll want your vet to further assess.

How Diet and Nutrition Affects Your Dogs Breath

Diet plays such a significant role in the overall health of your dog, including their oral health, which directly impacts their breath quality. Foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates can lead to an increase in plaque and tartar build-up because the bacteria in the mouth feed on these food particles and produce smelly compounds. On the flip side, a balanced diet with the right nutrients helps strengthen the teeth and gums, reducing the likelihood of dental problems that can cause bad breath​.

Foods To Avoid For Halitosis In Dogs And Why:

Certain foods should be avoided to maintain your dog’s oral health. They can include:

  • Sugary Foods: Just like in humans, sugary foods can increase the risk of dental problems in dogs, leading to bad breath.
  • Excessively Soft Food: Soft foods don’t assist in the natural scraping process that occurs when dogs chew harder foods, which can help reduce plaque buildup. Now, this isn’t to say that softer/wet or ground food is not good for your dog, but it does mean that you also want to include things in your dog’s diet that allow them to have some of that natural scraping as well.
  • Human Food: Certain human foods are just not okay for dogs and can contribute to poor oral health and digestion issues, which can present as bad breath​. Yes, they may want that bread you’re eating or some leftover pasta noodles, but those carbs are not good for dog breath (or extra weight, either).

Choosing the right foods and treats can help improve your dog’s breath and overall dental health. Specially designed dental chews and treats can reduce plaque and tartar build-up by mechanically cleaning the teeth as your dog chews. Additionally, raw bones can be a natural way for dogs to clean their teeth. The action of chewing can help scrape away plaque.

And, of course, just like for humans, crunchy items like carrots and apples can be beneficial. They are not only healthy but can also help clean your dog’s teeth as they eat them​.

Preventative Measures To Ward Off Bad Dog Breath

Maintaining daily oral hygiene is important in preventing halitosis and other dental issues in dogs. Establishing a routine early in your dog’s life can help them get used to the process and reduce stress for your dog (and you). Daily brushing is recommended because it can effectively reduce plaque and prevent the buildup of tartar.

Recommended Dental Care Products

For the dental health of dogs, using the right products matters.

  • Toothbrushes: There are specially designed toothbrushes for dogs, including those that fit on your finger, making it easier to reach all areas of your dog’s mouth.
  • Toothpaste Formulated for Dogs: Using toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs is important. Human toothpaste contains ingredients like fluoride and xylitol, which are toxic to dogs. Dog toothpaste usually comes in flavors appealing to dogs, such as poultry or beef, which can make brushing a more pleasant experience for your pet.

Treatment Options for Halitosis in Dogs

Many dog owners prefer to start with at-home treatments for managing halitosis in dogs, which can be effective, especially when the issue is primarily related to oral hygiene.

  • Dietary Adjustments: Science continues to support the idea that good digestive health can help address bad breath from the inside out. Ingredients like sweet potato, turkey, pumpkin, yogurt, and blueberries improve gut health and contribute to fresher breath​. Adding fiber to your dog’s diet can help improve digestion and reduce the occurrence of bad breath. Fiber supports a healthy digestive tract, which is crucial for overall health and fresh breath​
  • Natural Supplements: Supplements that help digestive health can also improve oral health. Probiotics, for example, help balance the gut flora and can reduce the incidence of bad breath. Certain herbs are also known for their breath-freshening properties. Parsley and mint, for example, can be added to your dog’s diet to help freshen breath naturally​.
  • Regular Oral Hygiene: Brushing your dog’s teeth daily with canine-formulated toothpaste and using dental chews can directly reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar that lead to bad breath.

If at-home remedies aren’t enough, and the halitosis is just too impossible to change, you may want to talk to the vet just to be sure there’s no underlying health issue.

Bernie’s Charming Chompers: More Than Just Bad Dog Breath Busters

Every product we have was developed for our Bernie first. His breath stunk, and we wanted to be able to have some better-smelling smooches. We knew bad breath could mean that his gut health was out of whack, and so we looked for the most science-backed ingredients to help his breath from the inside out. Charming Chompers are more than breath fresheners; they’re a labor of love, packed with beneficial ingredients like sweet potato, real turkey, pumpkin, yogurt, and blueberries. Each ingredient was chosen not only for its dental benefits but also for promoting a healthy gut.

Charming Chompers are our testament to our commitment to quality and care, because it all started with our own dog’s bad breath. With Bernie’s Charming Chompers, we hope we share a bit of that love and care with your dog, and help them to not only look their best with a charming smile but feel their best from the inside out.


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