Dogs and bad breath – what’s causing it?

If you’re anything like us, you’ll love it when your dog is affectionate. But those snuggles and face-licks aren’t so cute if they’ve got bad dog breath. Thankfully, it’s usually quite easy to tackle, and prevent those smelly kisses turning into a more serious problem.

Why does my dog have bad breath?

Sometimes your dog’s stinky breath comes from what they’ve eaten – especially if they’re a scavenging pup. The occasional honk is no cause for concern, but if it’s persistent you’ll need to consider what’s causing it. The top causes of bad breath in dogs are:

Not enough brushing: If you don’t clean your dog’s teeth regularly, plaque and tartar start to build up. This attracts bacteria, which can cause bad breath and gum disease.

An infection or abscess: A pocket of infection in a tooth or gum can give off a strong, foul smell. 

Less common causes of bad breath in dogs include:

Diabetes: Diabetes can cause your dog’s breath to smell slightly sweet – and not in a good way.

Respiratory problems like sinusitis: The problem might not be in your dog’s mouth at all – bacteria in the nose can also cause bad breath.

Coprophagia (eating poop): It’s no surprise that eating poop can leave your dog’s breath smelling far from fresh.

How can I improve my dog’s bad breath?

The pong on your pup’s breath can usually be significantly improved by cleaning their teeth regularly. If you already do this and their breath still smells, it’s worth getting them checked at the vet.

How do I clean my dog’s teeth?

Regular brushing is the number one dog breath freshener and it’s not as tricky as it sounds. Head Vet Sean is here to show you how.

Video: How to clean your dog’s teeth

Not all dogs enjoy having their teeth brushed at first – especially if it wasn’t part of their routine during puppyhood. Make both of your lives easier by getting your dog familiar with a toothbrush as early as possible. Here are Sean’s top tips for starting to brush a puppy’s teeth:

Put a treat on the toothbrush – so they get a reward when you brush

Give lots of praise – to help put them at ease

Use dog toothpaste – the meaty flavours may sound off-putting to us but dogs lap them up – literally

Avoid human toothpaste – many contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, like xylitol or alcohol

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

We clean our teeth twice a day. Ideally, we’d do the same for our dogs – but that can be a big ask when life is busy and your dog runs off at the first sight of the toothbrush. The good news: studies show that even brushing your dog’s teeth two or three times a week can help prevent plaque build-up and tackle bad breath. Look after your dog’s teeth between brushes by adding dental chews to their diet.

Our Dental Dailies can help – give your dog one a day to help prevent plaque and tartar build-up around the gum line.

What if brushing doesn’t help my dog’s bad breath?

Brushing helps prevent plaque and tartar from building up but it won’t get rid of deposits that are already there. Left alone, these can lead to gum disease and pose serious health risks, so you’ll need to book a visit to the vet to get them sorted. Signs of gum disease include:

Inflamed gums – look for a dark red line where the gum meets the teeth.

Receding gums – where the root of the tooth becomes exposed.

Yellow or brown deposits around the teeth – normally noticeable on the upper canines first – these teeth aren’t used for chewing so don’t get cleaned naturally. Lift your dog’s upper lip to check.

Related blog: Your dog’s dental health

Want to know more about how a diet can help look after your dog’s dental health? Get in touch at


    1. Hi Louise,

      Our Dental Dailies are suitable for dogs with pancreatitis providing they have no dietary ingredient exclusions.


    2. Hi Louisa,

      Our Dental Dailies are suitable for dogs with pancreatitis providing they have no dietary ingredient exclusions.


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