Causes of bad breath in pets

There are many potential causes for your pet's bad breath

Bad breath in dogs and cats is one of the more common observations animal guardians make and a question often posed to veterinarians. There are many possible causes of bad breath, from poor diets and digestive health, to sinus/respiratory infections, and many metabolic diseases such as kidney or renal disease. However, by far the most common cause of bad breath in dogs and cats is the presence of periodontal and gum disease. Periodontal disease is truly epidemic in adult dogs and cats, affecting to some degree almost 90 percent of adult pets. Symptoms may include not only a foul mouth odor, but excessive drooling, difficulty chewing food, or even subsequent weight loss.

In some cases, an infected tooth root can lead to swelling on one side of your pet’s face. If your pets allow you to, look inside their mouths especially at the back teeth. You may notice a significant buildup of dental plaque or tartar, and swollen or red gums. Not only does periodontal disease lead to a painful mouth and tooth loss, but increased risk of chronic infections in the mouth potentially spreading to other areas of the body, including the lungs, kidneys, liver and heart.

Many times when these symptoms are present, an initial ultrasonic dental scaling (done under anesthesia) is needed to address such pathology of the teeth and gums. However, if animal guardians start with dental care at home when animals are puppies or kittens, and certainly after an ultrasonic scaling, they can tremendously help to avoid future health problems.

Great products like C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste, C.E.T. Rinse, and Nolvadent Oral Cleansing Solution can all help play an active role in a pet’s dental care and health. C.E.T.’s Enzymatic Toothpaste contains two enzymes which not only prevent plaque buildup, but can digest the plaque right off teeth when used regularly. The chlorhexidine-based C.E.T. Oral Rinse can help soothe gum inflammation and kill harmful bacteria involved in plaque buildup and progressive periodontal disease. No matter which dental product or group of products used, I can’t stress enough the importance for animal guardians to be actively and regularly involved in their pet’s long term dental care.


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  1. i have a 5 year old female chihuahua and she lost some front teeth and her gums are sensitive to the touch. her breath is also bad. what can i do?

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    I would recommend vet exam to see if antibiotics and/or ultrasonic scaling of teeth needed. Using products like CET tooth rinse or tooth paste may help as well.

  3. We have a 1 1/2 year old Maltese and his breath is so bad and he is still so young. He eats very well but he does have an indigestion problem. Could this be the cause of his breath being so bad. I do mean foul breath. 🙁

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 16, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I would check his mouth to make sure he does not have retained baby teeth, as this can also cause bad breath. Indigestion can be involved as well. Try adding enzmes to meals like naturevet enzymes from 1800petmeds.

  5. My 17 year old dasshound had all teeth removed approx. 5 years ago. Lately her breath has been very stinky.
    I have been using a breath additive for water which has not helped.
    She does have allergies and sinus
    What else can I try

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    Best to have vet exam and blood work to make sure no other metabolic issues or digestive issues causing bad breath. Pulse antibiotic therapy also may be helpful to control oral bacteria if nothing found on workup.

  7. My poodle has extremely thin hair. Almost nonexistent. Otherwise he eats really good, plays, regular bowel movement, does not appear to have any pain at all–just does not have much hair. He is about ten years old. What can I do for him?

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 23, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Think hair can have many causes from allergies to hormonal issues. Best to see vet for exam and evaluation. Try supplements like missing link and naturevet enzymes added to meals from 1800petmeds.

  9. I have a 4yr female pit/lab about 40lbs. She has a healthy appetite but her breath smells like dog poo! She eats grass or weeds if I’m outside with her. She has normal bowels and drinks water its just her breath is BAD! What should I do?

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 6, 2014 at 12:27 am

    BEst to have vet check to evaluate for tooth or root infection. Also may need teeth cleaned at vet

  11. My Persian girl had a cleaning and an extraction, and her breath was much better — for a while. She’s recently been diagnosed w/high blood pressure (Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy). She is drinking tons of water & is borderline Hyperthyroidism. She’s back to having bad breath again…Help!!!

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Ask vet about whether antibiotics are needed.

  13. My 9 y.o. min pin had a oral cleaning by his vet and lost 5 teeth due to gingivitis oral disease. Poppi have really bad breath. Also, he had kennel cough as a young pup. He had full blood work to prove there are know physical problems.
    How often should I clean his teeth? His breath is bad! And he will eat anything off the ground when we go on our walks, even poo…

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    I would put him on long term oral hygiene program with great products like the CET line from 1800petmeds. Also have twice yearly oral/veterinary exams to see if ultrasonic scaling needed more frequently.

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