Dog breath: it’s a common phrase that pet parents just “know.” Even though there may not be one distinct smell, when we say dog breath, we’re usually not referring to something that smells like roses.

But why do some dogs have stinky breath? Is it what they eat? Is it just a normal thing that we shouldn’t worry about or could it be a sign of something deeper going on?

The thing is, there isn’t one ‘Yes’ answer. It could be one or all of the above. So, we’re getting down to the plaque today to find out – and to help you perhaps lessen the stench!

What’s the Deal with Dog Breath?

We’re lucky (or perhaps just diligent). Unless they’ve had some stinky fish or tripe for dinner, our dogs’ breath isn’t usually very smelly.  

For humans, regular brushing and flossing, as well as regular dental checkups and cleanings, help keep breath fresh and teeth clean. And together these things help reduce the risk of periodontal (dental) disease.

Unfortunately, dental disease in pets is quite common. In fact, the most common cause of bad breath in dogs is periodontal disease, a condition suffered by over 80% of dogs over the age of three.

It’s often a result of tartar build up that develops into calculus, a hard, yellow, mineral buildup. When this happens, the gums raced and the supporting structures around your dog’s teeth become weak, leaving to infections and tooth loss. 

And this can lead to bad breath. 

Other signs of dental disease include:

  • reddened, inflamed gums
  • discoloured teeth
  • tooth loss
  • difficulty eating
  • drooling
  • blood in the saliva
  • weight loss
  • swelling below one eye (tooth abscess)

And dental disease doesn’t just affect the mouth. Aside from tooth problems, it also affects overall health in general. Bacteria are released into the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and can lodge in places like the kidneys and heartvalves, causing problems in these sites.

If you notice any of the above signs, speak with your vet. It might be time for a professional cleaning. 

Preventing Dental Disease

One of the best ways to avoid dental disease (and avoid stinky dog breath at the same time) is with regular tooth brushing. It’s an excellent way to prevent that tartar buildup that causes problems. 

You don’t need to brush your dog’s teeth daily, although the more often the better. Most dogs aren’t huge fans, but it’s important. Find a dog safe toothpaste (or make your own – that’s what we prefer) and use a dog toothbrush or a little toothbrush that fits over your fingertip. Try to get in and around all the teeth to get a good clean. For fearful or sensitive personalities or elderly animals, try doing just a 1/4 of the mouth at a time to make it a fun experience and reduce the stress of it.

Remember: Don’t use human toothpaste! It contains ingredients that are toxic to pets, such as xylitol.

Here’s our go-to recipe for dog toothpaste from our friends at Adored Beast Apothecary featuring their blend of pre and probiotics, Love Bugs:

  • Small Dog (or Cat) – mix together 1 tsp of coconut oil and 1/16 tsp of Love Bugs
  • Large Dog – you may need more, up to a tablespoon

Store any leftover paste in a glass jar to use next time. 

How to Freshen Dog Breath

Along with brushing, there are several other ways to freshen stinky dog breath.

  • Raw Bones – Regular chewing on raw bones will help to keep plaque levels at a minimum. The bones clean the teeth and the chewing provides mental and physical stimulation that’s great for overall health. 
  • Parsley and Mint – Mint and parsley help bad breath for people and dogs! Parsley contains chlorophyll which can provide deodorizing benefits to your pup’s diet. Chlorophyll can also combat the bacteria in his mouth and digestive system. Mint is another obvious choice to address stinky breath! Not only is mint a natural deodorizer that also provides chlorophyll, but it can promote good digestion and soothe tummy troubles. Try sprinkling a teaspoon of either over your dog’s food.
  • Probiotics – Probiotics are not just good for the gut! To beat bad breath you want to make sure your dog’s mouth is populated with beneficial bacteria. And probiotics do just that! Use a probiotic made especially for dogs, and you’ll notice a big difference – not just in keeping that bad dog breath at bay, but in your dog’s overall well-being (that’s why we use it in our toothpaste!).
  • Carrots and Apples – these healthy snacks do more that keep up a healthy balanced diet. They’re abrasive enough to work away superficial buildup and keep dog breath fresh.
  • Clean that Water Bowl!! Your dog’s water bowl is a breeding ground for bacteria, even when you think it’s clean. It can collect dust, fur, food particles, debris, and of course her slobber. When you refill the bowl, don’t just rinse it out. Thoroughly wash it every day, and refill it often with clean water.
  • Coconut Oil – The natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of coconut oil make it ideal for boosting oral health – again, that’s why it’s in the toothpaste recipe! And most dogs love the taste.

If you’re worried about the smell of your dog’s breath, it might be time to take action. Whip up a batch of toothpaste and get brushing, offer a raw bone or a carrot to chew on, and share that mint! We all love dog kisses, even more-so when the breath attached to them doesn’t knock us out!