written by Leonie Becker

Bad breath in dogs – eyes open and nose closed!

 

He says: "Woof woof". And you say: "Ewww"?

Do you get up and run when your dog yawns, hold your nose when he pants and flee when your dog burps? Bad breath in dogs can be a serious strain on the human-animal relationship. If it’s a one-off thing, it's not so bad. However, if the dog's breath is permanently heavy and intense, it is usually a sign that something is out of balance. From food to health problems - bad breath in dogs can have various causes. And these need to be investigated - so open your eyes and hold your nose!

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An unpleasant smell from a dog's mouth can be harmless, but can also be a sign of serious illness. If in doubt, you should always ask your vet for advice if you notice persistent, strong bad breath in your dog.

Whether it is fishy, foul or metallic, bad breath in dogs can be caused by many things and sometimes the type of bad breath will give you an idea of what type of further research might be needed.

The most common causes of bad breath in dogs include:

  • Dental problems, dentition
  • Foreign bodies or food remains in the mouth
  • Bacteria or fungal infections
  • Inflammations
  • Stomach problems
  • Diabetes
  • Liver or kidney disease
  • Problems with feeding, e.g. certain ingredients
  • Poor quality food
  • Wet food/offal
  • Eating faeces

A foul-smelling mouth in a dog can be caused by dental problems or dentition. Sometimes an ulcerated or rotten tooth is the culprit. Checking the health of the teeth is therefore important. Often, just looking into the dog's mouth (hold your own nose!) helps to find the culprit. Sometimes foreign bodies get stuck between the dog's teeth, and when they decompose, they cause stale breath or inflammation.

Tartar (plaque) on the teeth can also cause bad breath in dogs. Initially, plaque forms on the necks of the teeth and the dog's teeth become discoloured. In the course of time, this can lead to inflammation. Bacteria not only cause bad breath, but can also cause the necks of the teeth to ulcerate. This results in the dog suffering from toothache. If periodontitis remains untreated, it can even attack internal organs. Therefore, the motto is: check your dog's teeth and act early to avoid permanent damage to his health.

Tips to prevent the build-up of plaque in dogs

  • Brush your dog's teeth regularly with dog toothpaste or a fingerstall
  • Give your dog a chew toy
  • Include abrasive dry food in your dog's diet
  • Let the dog nibble on chew sticks or buffalo skin bones
  • Have teeth cleaned by the vet
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Puppies still have their milk teeth until about three months of age. Then they start to shed their teeth. Your four-legged friend will develop 42 new teeth and the baby teeth will fall out. That's quite an achievement for the dog's body!

As the saying goes, "you have to break an egg to make an omelet", so small problems can occur during the hardest work for the organism, namely dentition.

Inflammations, for example, when food remains get stuck on loose teeth or in gaps between teeth.

Not pleasant, but usually not permanent: once the new set of teeth is complete, your puppy can say goodbye to bad breath.

Your dog's diet can also cause bad breath. Canned or wet food can form a layer on the dog's teeth or collect in the gaps between the teeth. Sooner or later, this layer starts to rot, and things get yucky! In this case, a change of food can solve the problem: By switching to high-quality dry food, the bad breath will also disappear and tooth abrasion will be promoted. Speaking of changing food, food intolerances can also cause your dog's mouth to smell. In such cases, you can experiment to see if the smell disappears if you change the dog's diet to hypoallergenic dog food or grain-free dog food, for example.
However, you should always have your dog's intolerances or allergies checked by a vet so that the food can be adjusted accordingly.
There are also low-quality dog foods containing ingredients that can cause bad breath (sugar, for example, can lead to tooth decay and bad breath!) or dog foods with added rumen or fish. Anyone who has ever prepared rumen knows what this means for the poor human nose...

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While there may be more harmless reasons behind bad breath, such as a foreign body (e.g. bark) in the mouth or the change of teeth, a bad odour can also be a serious sign of illness in dogs. Therefore, you should definitely get to the bottom of the matter. Sometimes even the nature of the smell can tell you something about the underlying disease. For example, a smell of urine from your dog's mouth can indicate kidney disease, diabetes can cause fruity-sweet breath, and a bitter-fermented smell is often associated with gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). If the bad breath is strong and does not disappear after a few days, you should always consult a vet to rule out possible organic causes and diseases in your dog.
Some dog owners have a natural 'nose' for something that is out of balance with their beloved pet. So when your nose sounds the alarm, it's always time to act!

Tastes differ, as we all know - some dogs eat faeces or like to nibble on the foul-smelling horn residues that fall off when horses' hooves are trimmed. Yuck! If you can rule out any illness in your four-legged friend and the bad breath is only a short-term nuisance, there are also home remedies that can improve breath quality. The chlorophyll contained in plants, for example, can help against bad breath in dogs. Parsley and peppermint have proved particularly effective. Getting them to nibble on a carrot or a piece of apple are also tips that provide a temporary burst of freshness. You should be careful with home remedies, however, because not all of them are tolerated by your dog. So if your four-legged friend has eaten something smelly, the best and safest home remedy against bad breath in dogs could be to hold your nose and open the window.