When your dog has a really bad breath, it's usually a result of too much build-up of odour-producing bacteria in your dog's mouth, lungs or gut. That means your dog needs better dental care, or there are problems with its gastrointestinal tract, liver or kidneys. Whenever your dog develops terrible breath, this should be investigated by a veterinarian. Your dog will have to go through a physical examination, and some tests may need to be performed. The vet may ask about your dog's diet, oral hygiene, exercise habits and general behaviour.
Is it always necessary to see the vet?
It's better to be safe than sorry so seeing a vet is always desirable. Your should definitely see a vet in case of persistent bad breath as well as in case of sudden unusual smell. Sweet breath can be a sign of diabetes, especially if your dog has been drinking more often and urinating more frequently. Urine smell can be a sign of kidney problems. Foul odour together with vomiting, a loss of appetite, yellow-ish corneas or gums can be a sign of liver problems.
Treatment of your dog's bad breath depends on the diagnosis. The most common procedures include professional cleaning while the dog is sedated, and changing the dog's diet (please read about corn in pet food - a very common cause of various health problems in dogs and cats). If liver, kidney, lung or gut problems are involved, the treatment should be prescribed by your vet.
Bad breath prevention
There is a number of things that can be done to prevent bad breath in dogs.
• Feed your dog a high quality diet. We recommend grain-free and raw diets as they meet the dog's nutritional needs much better than grain-based meals. Besides, grain-based food is often a source of an allergy, which can also result in bad breath.
• Do NOT feed your dog table scraps because this tends to contribute to bad breath. Keep the lid of the trash can closed so your curious dog can't access what's inside.
• Brush your dog's teeth. This can be done as often as you like. Some veterinarians recommend daily brushing. Important: use toothpaste designed for dogs as human toothpaste can upset canine stomach.
• Provide your dog with hard and safe chewing toys. They should help maintain dental hygiene by the natural process of chewing.
• Regular veterinarian check-ups should prevent medical issues that are likely to cause bad breath.
• You can give your dog treats designed to improve bad breath but please remember these products only mask the problem. They don't help treat the underlying cause.
• Some sources recommend to feed your dog crunchy kibble instead or wet food. We do NOT recommend this, as kibble is not the healthiest dog food. It lacks moisture and is often a cause of various health problems other than bad breath. Hard chewing toys work better than hard food. It's worth mentioning that holistic dry food is better than grain-based dry food. Grain-free and holistic wet food is better than any dry food. Raw food is the best option.
As a dog gets older, its breath will usually get worse too because the animal's health and immune system get weaker little by little. However, the above tips should help keep your dog's breath healthy as long as possible.