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Most dog parents love snuggling up with their furry best friends. But it can be hard to enjoy sweet snuggles when your pup opens their mouth to yawn and bad dog breath hits you in the nose. Yuck! Many dog owners have wondered, “Why does my dog’s breath smell bad?” How do you get rid of bad breath in a dog’s mouth?

Bad doggie breath could come from a variety of sources. Depending on the cause, there are several different things you can do. Read on to learn how to help your stinky cutie once and for all.

Causes Of Bad Dog Breath

They Ate Something Stinky

Most dog parents are all too familiar with the smell of their pup’s breath, for better or worse. So, if your dog approaches you with breath that smells unusually pungent, odds are that something is amiss. For instance, if you’re wondering “why does my dog’s breath smell like poop?” there’s a chance that they ate something smelly, like actual poop.

Eating feces is a nasty but common habit shared by some dogs. Some dogs eat their own poop, and others will eat poop from other animals, like horses or cats. This can make their breath stink. It can also cause problems like parasites or signal issues like a nutrition deficiency.1 If your dog has this habit, speak to your vet about strategies to help them stop.

Poor Oral Hygiene

If your dog’s stinky breath has been a growing issue for some time, their oral health may be to blame. Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of stinky dog breath.2

As with humans, tartar and plaque can build up on a dog’s teeth. This can create a breeding ground for bacteria, which causes bad breath. Plaque and tartar build-up can also settle into the space between teeth and gums, pushing gums away from teeth and exposing more surface area to bacteria. This can all cause your dog’s breath to smell.

In addition to stinky breath, plaque and tartar build-up can lead to:

  • Periodontal issues
  • Oral discomfort
  • Cavities
  • Tissue destruction
  • Tooth loss3,4

If you’re worried that your pet may have oral health issues, speak with your vet.

An Underlying Health Issue

Bad dog breath can be a symptom of another medical condition. Contact your vet if you notice any of these oral issues:

  • Dog breath that smells like ammonia or urine
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes
  • Changes in appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination5

How To Get Rid Of Stinky Dog Breath

Book A Dental Exam

If you’re concerned with your dog’s breath and overall dental health, your first step should be to call your vet to get personalized advice. They can help set you up with a dental exam, which can help detect health issues and give your pup a deep clean. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that dogs receive annual dental cleanings after the age of one or two.6

During the exam, the veterinarian will likely examine the structures of the face, head, neck, teeth, and soft tissues. They will likely perform x-rays to look deeper into the tooth structure. Then, the technician will remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. Lastly, they will polish the teeth using dental instruments.7

Step Up Your Dog’s Hygiene Habits

If you only occasionally – or never – brush your dog’s teeth, now may be a good time to develop a new hygiene habit. Experts recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. Some say you should brush dog teeth twice a day, just like you do for yourself.8

Introduce Your Dog To A Toothbrush

If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth before, there will likely be a transition period while your dog gets used to this new activity. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that most dogs don’t like getting their teeth brushed. To encourage a positive experience, follow these tips for introducing a toothbrush:

  • Create a calm, positive environment. Avoid chasing your dog around the house with a toothbrush or forcing it on them.
  • Hold small dogs on your lap. Sit larger dogs next to a chair where you can easily reach their mouth.
  • Start with a finger brush or a soft cloth.
  • Build exposure little by little. First, present the brush or cloth and allow them to examine it while they are seated by you. Give them a ton of praise and treats when they sniff or lick it. Stop there for the first few times.
  • When they are ready, apply a small amount of dog toothpaste to the cloth, and allow them to taste it. Give them plenty of praise.
  • Once they are more comfortable with the concept, try gently wiping a small section of teeth. Don’t worry about their whole mouth until they are comfortable. Remain calm and positive.
  • Now, try wiping their entire mouth with your cloth or finger brush.
  • Once they are comfortable here, you can start using a larger dog toothbrush or stick with your finger brush. Be gentle, and go slowly, taking care not to poke their gums with your brush.9

Pick A Toothpaste That Works

When brushing your dog’s teeth, be sure to always use a pet toothpaste. Do not use toothpaste made for humans, as these are not formulated to be swallowed. Human toothpaste can occasionally include xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. Dog toothpaste comes in dog-friendly flavors like chicken, beef, and mint – which helps when you’re trying to get your dog to accept it.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

So, how do you actually brush your dog’s teeth? It’s a little different than brushing your own.

  • First, go through the steps above to get your pup used to a toothbrush.
  • Start your brushing session with lots of soothing praise.
  • Gently move the upper lip up, and brush the front teeth in an up-down or circular pattern.
  • Move back, and hold their lip up as you brush the sides and back of the teeth.
  • Now, pull the lower lip down, and gently brush the lower teeth.
  • If you see any signs of aggression, like freezing, lifting of the lip, or growling, stop immediately.10

Alternatives To Brushing

If your dog just won’t go for a toothbrushing session, all hope is not lost. Here are a few alternatives to brushing that may work for you:

  • Kibble formulated for oral health
  • Anti-plaque water additives
  • Dental treats, like hard dental chews designed to remove plaque11

Try An At-Home Remedy

While oral hygiene is the most important step to tackling bad dog breath, there are also natural, at-home remedies you can try.

  • Introduce probiotics to your dog’s food – they can balance gut bacteria and may help stinking dog breath.
  • Offer crunchy treats, like apples and carrots – they may help break up tartar.
  • Add fresh mint to your dog’s meal – it smells fresh and contains bacteria-fighting chlorophyll.
  • Try coconut oil – it may fight oral bacteria and plaque.12

Talk To Your Vet

If your dog’s breath is less-than-pleasant, your first call should be to your veterinarian. Your vet can help give you personalized advice and set you up with a dental exam.

Help Your Pup Stay Fresh And Clean (So You Don’t Mind When They Go In For A Lick)

Your dog’s breath doesn’t have to stink. With regular brushing and some troubleshooting, you may be able to restore your pup’s breath freshness. Fresher dog breath makes spending time with your dog more pleasant, and that’s a win-win for everyone.