best dog treats for bad breath
Pet Health Questions and Answers

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell So Bad Suddenly?

There’s one thing that can sour being greeted by your dog after a day at work – the fact that your dog has bad breath. Let us rephrase that into something a little more accurate; your dog’s breath smells like poop.  Your dog has breath that could potentially kill a man at ten paces.

It’s a common complaint and one that should be taken seriously. There are many different factors that cause bad breath in dogs, from something comparatively innocent such as dehydration through to signs of serious illness, including cancer and kidney disease. Bad breath could even be a sign of worms or a warning of allergies.

If you’re wondering how to stop bad breath in dogs, many remedies can be used at home. Whether it’s medication, specialist treats to cure bad breath or a homemade dog breath freshener such as yogurt or apple cider vinegar; you’ll be able to find something that ceases the problem. If you find that your dog has bad breath all of a sudden, read on and take heart!

Table of Contents:

What Causes Bad Breath in Dogs?

For the most part, bad breath in dogs has the same cause as human halitosis – bacteria in the mouth. It’s hardly surprising really. Dogs love little more than to eat, munching away with abandon at every opportunity. Unlike us though, they can’t nip to the bathroom afterward and give their teeth a polish.

There could be many reasons why a dog ends up with bad breath, including:

  • Gum Disease or dental problems
  • Tumors within the mouth
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Consumption of something toxic or non-digestible
  • Diabetes
  • Worm infestation

Alternatively, it may be as simple as a less-than-stellar diet!

When is Bad Breath a Sign of Sickness?

So, as we have established, bad breath may be a result of your dog’s mouth experiencing a build-up of plaque and tartar on the teeth. This is easy to identify upon sight; just get your dog to open wide, and take a look inside their mouth for any signs of discoloration.

If your dog’s jaws are anything less than pearly white, it’s time to brush your dog’s molars and incisors. That should zap away any bacteria, ensuring that your dog’s breath is considerably more appealing when you make friends again after subjecting them to a tooth cleaning and heading off problems caused by bacteria at the pass.

Sadly, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, bad breath in dogs is a warning sign of severe illness. Typically, different health concerns have varying symptoms.

Gum Disease

We discuss gum disease in dogs in some detail in our guide to brushing your dog’s teeth, but an important message always bears repeating. Take a good look inside your dog’s mouth multiple times a week, and ensure that their teeth and gums are in good shape.

That means that the gums look healthy – they are in no way discolored, and certainly not bleeding – and that your dog’s teeth are clean, strong and devoid of cracks.

A professional should investigate any sign of sickness straight away, as gum disease in dogs is not something to be taken lightly. Left untreated, this condition can lead to a great deal of pain and discomfort for your dog (imagine how much you hate having a toothache and magnify it by a hundred), in addition to the possibility of contracting some of the more serious health conditions featured below.

Liver Disease

Liver disease in dogs is one of the many conditions that can stem from gum disease.

If your dog has foul smelling breath all of a sudden, alongside yellow staining on their gums (or the corners of their eyes), it’s highly likely that Fido has a liver problem. Other signs to look out for in this situation are a lack of appetite and vomiting.

As you can probably imagine, a situation such as this requires immediate intervention from a professional. Make an appointment with a vet and get your dog on a course of medication if you suspect an onset of liver disease.

homemade dog breath freshener

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease in dogs stems from an inability to eliminate their waste, most notably urine. This leads to a pungent scent of ammonia on your dog’s breath, as pee is backing up and making its way into the bloodstream.

As you can probably imagine, this is an unpleasant experience – both for Fido and for you being surrounded by urine-breath!

If your dog’s breath starts to smell like a public toilet, especially if he or she also seems to be having trouble going to the toilet, you should get them to a vet for a full examination.

Oral Tumors

According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, some larger breeds of dog may be prone to developing oral tumors. These issues are caused by a dog’s body growing at a rate that his or her blood cells struggle to keep up with, leaving areas of the mouth unprotected by white blood cells. Naturally, these dead areas are breeding grounds for bacteria.

A tumor may not always be immediately noticeable, so it’s vital to be vigilant about checking your dog’s mouth. They come in a variety of different sizes and shapes, but discoloration of the teeth or tongue could be a warning sign, along with foul, sour breath. In such a situation, seek the advice of a vet straight away.


Dogs can be susceptible to diabetes due to their famous weakness for eating everything in their path. Factor in the fact that countless dog foods and treats are packed with sugar, and you have a potential recipe for disaster.

According to the America Kennel Club, bad breath can be a very clear warning sign of diabetes in dogs. If your furry friend is at risk, you’ll find that his or breath tends to be sickeningly sweet – possibly even fruity.

If coupled with any kind discoloration in your dog’s mouth or a change in behavior, this needs to be treated straight away. Doggy diabetes can restrict the functionality of the immune system, leaving dogs at huge risk of even more health complaints.


There are countless forms of worm infestations that could make their way into your dog’s digestive tract, and they all have a variety of symptoms.

Chief among these indicators is bad breath, so if your dog’s breath has suddenly taken a turn for the worse check if they’re due for a worming pill.

Allergies and Non-Digestible Foods

When a dog eats something that doesn’t agree with them, it will always be reflected by their breath.

Stay alert to any strange smells on your dog’s breath if they seem a little out of sorts, as that could be a sign that they’ve eaten or drunk something not intended for them. They may even have attempted to tuck into an inedible object that is trapped in their teeth or digestive tract that will need to be removed.

Of course, dogs also tend to eat all kinds of unsavory things, including feces. This will always lead to appalling breath, but brushing or a homemade remedy could potentially treat this. If Fido’s breath remains foul, as always, it’s time to see the vet. Some kind of allergic reaction may be to blame.

How to Treat Bad Breath in Dogs

There are many different ways that bad breath in dogs can be treated, varying from home remedies to professional help.

You could always attempt a DIY solution to the problem in the first instance before consulting a vet, but always ensure to try at least something.

The temptation for many dog owners may be to shrug off their tail-wagging chum’s bad breath as, “just one of those things,” and declare that it’s something they’re willing to tolerate.

While that kind of unconditional love for our cherished pets is commendable, it’s likely to do more harm than good!

dog has bad breath all of a sudden

Treats to Cure Bad Breath in Dogs

Take a stroll around a pet store, and you will more than likely find a long list of treats that claim to cure your dog’s bad breath. Be a little cautious of these claims, as while they may well be true there is often a caveat.

A treat, by its very nature, is designed to appeal to a dog’s palate. The fastest way of doing this in many cases is to add sugar or some other kind of sweetening agent to the treatment in question.

Naturally, this means that while your dog’s breath will be a little more palatable in the short term, tooth decay could follow further down the line! Chlorophyll, cinnamon, and clove, however, are great ingredients that will do the world of good.

Introducing raw bones into a dog’s diet is a better way of keeping their teeth clean and their breath fresh. This is a great way of keeping your dog’s mouth sanitary.

Vet Medication to Cure Bad Breath in Dogs

A vet will not necessarily treat a dog’s bad breath directly. However, they will ensure that the underlying cause is dealt with. Remember that bad breath is usually a symptom of a medical ailment, not the healthcare concern itself.

This could be something to do with your dog’s internal organs, or it may be a case of gum disease that needs treating with antibiotics. Alternatively, your dog’s bad breath may stem from a cracked or broken tooth that will require dental surgery.

Whatever happens, you can be assured that your vet will know how to proceed and take the appropriate action. If no medical action can be taken, your vet will discuss diet and lifestyle changes that may be necessary.

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth to Cure Bad Breath

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth is hugely important. Poor dental health, tarter build up, and gum infections and disease are common causes of smelly breath. It helps to get your dog into the habit from puppyhood, so they treat it as part of their typical routine, but there’s plenty of time to train if you missed those critical early years.

Some dogs, alas, will not allow you to brush their teeth. You may need to prepare yourself for this eventuality and look into alternative methods of keeping your dog’s breath fresh. These could include oral wipes or a vet visit for a full dog tooth cleaning.

The latter option isn’t something that should be taken lightly, as it involves placing the canine in question under a general anesthetic. Once this has been done, however, the vet or hygienist will be able to scrape away any signs of tartar or plaque – and, by extension, reduce the risk and likelihood of gum disease and all that entails.

How to Cure Bad Breath through Diet

Sometimes bad breath is a result of a lack of balanced diet. Any eating plan for a dog should be discussed with a vet first, as different breeds have varying needs and requirements. There’s no such thing as the perfect doggy diet that doesn’t need additional care – brushing teeth will always be needed, but different diets have different impacts.

  • Kibble can ensure that your dog has all the nutrients they need if you pick up a vet-approved scientific brand, but it will stick to your dog’s teeth and gums. This is a fast track to bad breath.
  • Wet food is easier to digest and less likely to get trapped between your dog’s teeth, but it’s often loaded with sugar that will rot teeth within your dog’s mouth.
  • Raw feeding or home-cooked meals are ideal for your dog’s digestion, teeth, and maintaining fresh breath. However, you’ll need to be extremely vigilant about ensuring that the diet is balanced. Calcium deficiency, for example, can be a side effect that leads to future problems within the mouth.

Should I See a Vet About My Dog’s Bad Breath?

It goes without saying that if you have any concerns about your dog’s health, you should seek professional advice immediately. The alternative doesn’t even bear thinking about.

If your dog suddenly develops bad breath and it’s something out of the ordinary, you should make an appointment with a vet ASAP. As per the list above, your dog may have eaten something that they are struggling to digest, they may need dental treatment, or it could be a worrying first sign of a severe illness.

If your dog generally has bad breath and you’re confident that it’s just a side effect of a protein-rich diet, look into brushing their teeth with regularity. Fido might not be overly keen on this idea, but you can check out our guide to brushing your dog’s teeth to some tips and suggestions as to how this overcome resistance.

Despite this, even general bad breath isn’t something that should be ignored and explained away as “that’s just dogs for you.”  It may be that your dog’s diet is lacking in balance and their body is crying out for particular vitamins or minerals. A vet will be able to discuss your dog’s diet with you and make recommendations as to any changes that you may want to consider making.

If your human friend had halitosis, you’d find a gentle way of explaining it to them so they could seek treatment, and you should extend the same courtesy to your canine chum. Plaque and tartar on the teeth can lead to more significant health concerns for dogs and should be treated just like any other worry.

How to Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs

Of course, you could also consider tips to prevent bad breath from taking hold in the first place!

As we’ve previously said, dogs will eat just about anything. This isn’t necessarily because they’re hungry, but dogs investigate the world around them using their mouths. They won’t look at that old, abandoned shoe or glove in the street and think it looks tasty. They’re just curious and want to know a little bit more about it.

Naturally, this doesn’t change the fact that picking such items up leaves dogs at risk of bringing bacteria into their mouths. The same goes for their tendency to eat their own poop and that of their canine colleagues. That’s a whole different behavior to be discussed another time!

homemade dog breath spray

The point is, trying to discourage your dog from placing such things in their mouths in the first place will keep foul breath at bay. Try to master a strict command, such as, “leave it!” when Fido starts approaching anything untoward.

After a while, your dog will lose interest pretty quickly, and you’ll have fewer problems with your dog’s bad breath. You could also look into adding dog-friendly probiotic supplements into your dog’s diet, which will ensure that the friendly, ‘good’ bacteria in their mouths outweigh the bad.

Home-Made Dog Breath Fresheners

If you are determined to approach your dog’s bad breath through a homemade remedy, there are many different options that you can try. Not everything will work for every dog though, so it may be a case of trial and error.

Once you have found a solution that works for both you and Fido, however, stick with it! Not only will it be more pleasant for you when your dog insists on greeting you with an avalanche of facial licks and kisses, but it will also keep your canine chum happy and healthy.

Here are some of the homemade remedies that anybody can use to combat bad breath in dogs.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil isn’t just a superfood for humans – it’s packed with benefits for dogs, too. Not only will this product bolster the skin and fur coat of any canine, but coconut oil is a natural breath freshener for dogs.

Just pick up a jar from a supermarket or health food store (ensuring that it’s cold pressed and extra virgin), and apply a little to the back of your hand. Your dog will be extremely keen to lick it up and will feel amazing for it.

Apple Cider Vinegar

The idea of vinegar outside of a portion of French fries may not be appealing on paper, but apple cider vinegar is a fantastic way of keeping a dog’s breath fresh.

You can stir half a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar into your dog’s water bowl, ensuring that they’ll improve their breath every time they take a drink, or mix a little with water and pop it into a dog-friendly spray bottle. This creates a homemade dog breath spray that will be hugely impactful!

Cinnamon, Turmeric or Parsley

Consider these three herbs to a holy trinity of breath fresheners for dogs. Any or all of them are safe to consume (in sensible doses!) and have a great impact on your pet’s breath.

Just sprinkle a little of these herbs onto your dog’s solid food and they’ll tuck in, blissfully unaware that they are enjoying considerable health benefits and sparkling teeth and breath.

Fresh Water

It sounds obvious, but keep Fido’s bowl topped up with a constant supply of cool, fresh water. Dehydration is one of the causes of bad breath in dogs, and it will also inspire your own pooch to lick your face in search of relief.

Keep that water bowl filled, replacing it every couple of hours, and you’ll find that your dog has considerably more appealing breath.

Bad breath in dogs is no laughing matter and not something to be ignored. Take the necessary action, however, and you’ll have no objection to your tail-wagging chum expressing their affection for you by licking your face.