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Surprising Causes of Your Dog’s Bad Breath + Vet-Approved Ways to Get Rid of It Fast

It might be as simple as giving them *this* treat! 

Dog kisses are irresistible — that is, until you take a whiff of their breath and notice it’s alarmingly stinky. Although bad breath isn’t exactly uncommon in dogs, that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be that ugh-inducing. There are a lot of reasons your pup could have bad breath, but luckily that means there are a lot of solutions too! Keep reading for the dog bad breath remedy that could help your pup (and you!).

Why does my dog’s breath smell so bad?

Bad breath can occur for a range of reasons, and while some are pretty harmless, others could indicate a serious health issue. That’s why Dr. Jacqueline Brister, veterinarian and pet health contributor for Embrace Pet Insurance, says it never hurts to set up an appointment with your vet: “Catching an issue early often makes treatment easier and prevents your dog from feeling poorly for too long.”

Dietary factors

“Sometimes, it’s as simple as what they’ve snuck into their mouths,” explains dog expert Elena Rowe, co-founder of Labrajoy. This could mean anything from an old fish on a walk to another dog’s poop at the park.

Mouth health

Dog bad breath remedy: Dalmatian puppy yawning, against blue background
Coneyl Jay/Getty

This is the most common explanation because as Rowe says, “dogs can’t brush their teeth like we do.” Your pup might experience the below:

  • Plaque: Just like humans, dogs also experience plaque, which is the slimy film that accumulates on teeth daily.
  • Tartar: Dr. Brister describes this as a “hard buildup on the tooth that supports the growth of bacteria in the mouth.” It’s what happens when plaque isn’t taken care of.
  • Gum disease: Where there’s plaque and tartar, there’s soon-to-be gum disease, which starts with inflammation and can even lead to heart disease.
  • Infected tooth or gums: If their bad breath is coupled with drooling and pain signals, this is likely the source of the issue.
  • Oral tumors: Tumors are abnormal cell growths that could be benign (slow-growing and non-spreading) or malignant (aggressive and likely to spread).

Digestive issues

Acid reflux, which is what happens when stomach acid flows up the esophagus, can cause bad breath. You can also run into problems when the intestine isn’t able to digest certain ingredients.

More serious health issues

Some of the most serious problems associated with bad breath include:

  • Kidney disease: Other symptoms you might notice are excessive thirst, weight loss, vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Liver disease: Liver disease and kidney disease have a lot of the same symptoms, but ascites, jaundice and neurologic issues are all unique to liver issues.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes has many of the same symptoms as liver and kidney disease as well, in addition to cloudy eyes, dull coat and depression.

How do I get rid of my dog’s smelly breath?

Dog bad breath remedy: Cleaning your dog’s teeth for maintaining a good dental hygiene. Daily routine when living with pets. Bonding with pets concept.
Oscar Wong/Getty

Addressing basic dietary and dental issues is easier to accomplish at home or during a one-off appointment, but anything above that may require more help from your vet.

Dog bad breath remedy: tooth brushing

Sometimes it really is as simple as daily tooth brushing. It’s best to buy a toothpaste made specially for dogs. Dr. Gary Richter, veterinarian, author of The Ultimate Pet Health Guide, and founder of Ultimate Pet Nutrition explains that human toothpaste can contain fluoride and xylitol, both of which are toxic to dogs.

Dental chews and water additives

Dental chews (dogs just think they’re treats) and water additives (dogs don’t even notice them) can go a long way in preventing dental diseases that cause bad breath. Dr. Brister recommends looking for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s Seal of Acceptance, “which means they’ve met certain standards created by the VOHC that demonstrate they’re capable of preventing plaque and tartar formation with regular use.” That said, they’re still no substitute for daily brushing and regular dental cleanings. Dr. Brister recommends:

Dog bad breath remedy: Chews

Dog bad breath remedy: Water additives

Dental cleanings

Regardless of whether or not brushing your pup’s teeth at home solves your problem, as a best practice, Dr. Brister recommends “sending them back to the veterinarian for dental checkups and cleanings every six months to a year.” 


Dog bad breath remedy: A purebred golden retriever dog is sitting indoors, in front of it is a bowl of raw, healthy food. The bowl consists of raw meat, carrots, and zucchini, illustrating the concept of a healthy diet for the dog.

Dr. Paula Simons, veterinarian and consultant at K9 of Mine, recommends raiding your pantry for some natural remedies that can help neutralize bad breath:

  •  Parsley: Add fresh parsley to your dog’s food to help neutralize odors.
  • Coconut oil: Take advantage of its antimicrobial properties and add a small amount of coconut oil to your dog’s diet.
  • Carrots or apples: Chewing on crunchy fruits and vegetables can help clean teeth naturally.

For more on dogs, click through the links below:

“I’m a Veterinarian and This Is a Red Flag That Your Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning!”

Ginger for Dogs: Vets on What You Need to Know Before Feeding the Spice to Your Pup

Out of Dog Shampoo? A Vet Explains Why You Should Never Use People Shampoo

Why Does My Dog Stare at Me? Veterinarian Explains What They’re Trying to Tell You

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