Understanding Canine Halitosis: Dog Bad Breath

For people who share their lives with life with a dog, bad breath is a common complaint. Bad breath in dogs can be caused by dietary indiscretion, food allergies, plaque build-up or an underlying illness, but in most cases, a thorough dental cleaning and a healthy diet will improve your dog's halitosis.

Dietary Indiscretion

Dogs love food. Fresh or spoiled, digestible or not, if your dog can fit it down his throat, it counts as food. Depending on what your dog has selected from the garbage, road or backyard, this can have profound effects on his breath. Activated charcoal is a quick dog breath remedy for halitosis caused by dietary indiscretion. There are dog biscuits available that contain charcoal; they are usually black-colored. Don't feed more than 1 or 2 per day. The properties that allow charcoal to bind and absorb odors can do the same for vital nutrients.

Dental Care for Fresh Breath

Healthy dog teeth should be white and free from plaque buildup. Plaque tends to build up on the back teeth first-you may notice dark discolorations along the gum line. Gums should be pink and shiny, not red or swollen. Gingivitis and periodontal disease begins along the gum line, so part particular attention to these areas. As plaque builds up along the gum line, it irritates the tissues. The gums may recede and form pockets that allow infections to develop. These infections cause bad breath but can lead to more serious conditions including tooth and bone loss.

If caught and treated early, gingivitis can be reversed and further damage prevented with regular brushing. If there is severe plaque build up already in place, a professional cleaning may be needed.

To maintain your dog's teeth, brush several times a week. Use a soft, child-sized toothbrush or a special dog brush. Do not use baking soda or human toothpaste-use only plain water or dog-specific toothpaste. Brush gently, concentrating your efforts along the gum line.

It is never too early to begin a dental hygiene program for your dog or puppy-breath freshening toothpastes are available in dog-friendly flavors like beef or chicken.

Look for treats that contain tartar control and breath-freshening ingredients. While these goodies will not reverse gum disease or treat an underlying infection, they can provide short-term breath freshening results.

Food Sensitivities and Bad Breath

Food sensitivities can cause gas and bad breath, the two most common sources of dog smells. Many commercial dog foods contain corn, wheat and soy, foods that often cause digestive upset in sensitive dogs. Look for dog foods that contain a named meat as the primary ingredient. A healthy, high-quality dog food is a simple bad breath treatment that promotes the overall health of your dog.

Underlying Illness Can Affect Breath

If your dog is healthy and active, bad breath is probably nothing to worry about. Be aware, however, that certain serious illnesses can affect the odor of your dog's breath. Diabetes, certain cancers and kidney disease can cause strong breath odors and malignant melanomas can discolor and deform the gums.

A healthy dog's breath should not smell bad. If you suspect that your dog has a more serious problem than simple halitosis, see your veterinarian.