Picture this: you’re snuggling with the one you love. When the moment is right, they lean in for a kiss… and you wish they hadn’t! While you may not be able to fix your date’s garlic/morning/ewwhoknowswhat breath, there are some definite cures and fixes for what makes dog breath so stanky. Follow these guidelines and you’ll never have to turn away from those lovable licks again!
Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?
Before we get to the cures, it’s important to know the causes of bad breath in dogs. First and foremost is plaque: made of food deposits and bacteria, plaque builds up on teeth and can even make its way into the gum line, causing stinky breath—especially when it isn’t treated with regular brushing, approved dental chews, and regular visits to the veterinary dentist.
When plaque gets really bad, dogs can develop periodontal disease (and, in fact, 80% of them do before the age of three!). Periodontal disease has a number of factors, but it essentially means that the infrastructure of your dog’s mouth (teeth, gums, and jaw) lose support thanks to plaque, tartar (a.k.a. the really tough stuff you can’t remove without a dentist’s help), and gum inflammation. Periodontal disease is the distinguishing factor between bad breath that’s somewhat tolerable, and a totally noxious, get-me-outta-here smell.
Is bad dog breath a sign of illness?
It can be. There are four stages of periodontal disease that increase in severity and treatment level, but bad breath is a symptom at the very first stage: gingivitis. Even more seriously, bad breath could signal that your dog is in pain or discomfort—and while they do a lot with their mouths, the one thing they can’t do is ask for help. That’s why it’s crucial to act before periodontal disease and all of its associated dangers (which include potential organ damage, BTW!) come into play.
What are things I can do to cure my dog’s bad breath?
First things first, you can prevent it completely! Preventative treatment is key in keeping your dog out of surgery for future teeth extractions and invasive antibiotics. Veterinarians recommend the following as preventative measures:
- Chewing and chew toys: Yep, chewing helps dogs remove plaque on a regular basis! Make sure any chews are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Association (a.k.a, no antlers or ice cubes that can cause tooth damage).
- Daily tooth brushing: Only 2% of dog parents do it, but daily brushing is crucial to protect against all that icky stuff getting into the gums and causing swelling, bleeding, and… you guessed it, bad breath. (Not super into the idea of sticking your fingers in your dog’s mouth every day? Try Bright! It’s a two-step cleaning system that involves no saliva fingers whatsoever. Simply squeeze the enzymatic toothpaste along groove on the real-chicken dental stick, and give to your dog. They’ll take matters into their own—er, mouth!
- Regular check-ups: Neither of the above fixes are replacements for regular check-ups with a board-certified veterinarian!
Will brushing my dog’s teeth fix bad breath?
Up to a certain point, it will absolutely help. But once periodontal disease advances beyond gingivitis, the best intervention will be a deep cleaning and examination from a veterinary dentist, which may involve more invasive treatments, depending on your dog’s diagnosis.
Should my dog be going to the dentist?
TL;DR: Yes, definitely bring your dog to a veterinary dentist for regular cleanings! We’ve got a whole article for you on what to expect from a standard dentist visit, including why dogs are put under anesthesia, the importance of Fear Free Dentistry, and more at this link.
How can I get rid of puppy breath?
First off: we’re including this in our guide because it’s a search term with not insignificant traffic. But… excuse us? Get rid of puppy breath? Why would you ever want to get rid of that sweet milky smell all puppies have before they start teething? The answer: you’re a monster, probably. Even so, it’s still important to establish a dental hygiene routine even when your dog is this young. That way, they get accustomed to both the routine and the accoutrements of keeping their mouth healthy!
Want to learn more about BARK Bright? It's a first-of-its-kind dog dental care system that your dog will actually enjoy! No toothbrush required.