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How To Get Rid Of Bad Dog Breath: Why It Stinks & Prevention Tips

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Last Updated: April 30, 2024 | 6 min read | 12 Comments

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Dog mouth up close breathing.

I love snuggling with my dog, especially when he gets on the pillows behind me on the sofa or bed. But one day, we started to notice that things were pretty smelly when he breathed in our faces. I knew something had to be wrong, so we took him to the vet for a dental evaluation and to find out how to fix my dog’s bad breath. Turns out he had some loose teeth and pretty bad dental decay (even at only 3.5 years old).

Bad breath was a wake-up call for us to get down to business with better oral hygiene. Just like humans, we have to be diligent and take care of our dog’s teeth daily. If your dog’s breath smells, let’s dig deeper into other possible causes, how to get rid of your dog’s bad breath, and preventative tips.

Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell?

Contrary to popular belief, bad breath is not normal for dogs. Unfortunately, more than two-thirds of dogs suffer from dental issues, and bad breath is an early warning sign. It’s likely that your dog’s breath stinks because there’s a build-up of odorous bacteria in his mouth, lungs, or gut.

If your dog’s breath is consistently smelly, he probably needs better dental care by a professional. However, it could be that there’s something wrong with his kidneys, liver, or gastrointestinal tract, so be sure to consult your vet about your dog’s bad breath.

A Veterinarian’s Experience With Bad Breath In Dogs

“Bad dog breath is often a sign of an underlying health problem like dental disease. So, it’s important to get advice from a vet before attempting any treatment at home,” says Dr. Hannah Godfrey, BVetMed, MRCVS. “The majority of cases of bad breath in dogs that I see in practice turn out to be related to dental disease. However, occasionally, it has been due to kidney disease, wounds in the mouth, ulcers, or other problems. Mildly bad dog breath can be improved with regular toothbrushing using pet-safe toothpaste. Daily or every other day is best if your dog is tolerant. If your dog won’t tolerate toothbrushing, there are antibacterial gels, rinses, and water supplements that can improve bad breath, but toothbrushing is most effective.

It’s not just stinky dog breath you’re dealing with. If not treated, periodontal and gum disease can result in pain and tooth loss. It can even spread infection to other vital organs, causing liver or kidney disease. So it’s essential that you treat your dog’s mouth issues as soon as you detect something’s wrong.

Smaller dogs like mine are especially prone to plaque and tartar since they have smaller mouths and tighter spots for food to get trapped, so you’ll have to take extra good care of their mouths. But no matter your furry friend’s size, veterinarians recommend that you brush your pup’s teeth every day. We learned this lesson the hard way and had to have 10 of our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s teeth extracted.

Before jumping to the worst possible scenario, talk to your veterinarian. They’re the best source to determine the cause of your dog’s gnarly breath. To learn more about the causes of dog bad breath, check out the video below.

How To Freshen Dogs’ Breath

If you talk to your vet about the bad puppy breath you’re dealing with, they might recommend one of these products on how to freshen dog breath.

Tropiclean Fresh Breath Review

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Fresh Breath by Tropiclean has excellent reviews, but its application process is a little more invasive. First, you apply a few drops to your finger and then rub it on the sides of your dog’s teeth. Some dogs aren’t crazy about this, so try to ease into it. Some pet parents swear by this product, while others seem at odds with it.

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PetHonesty Dental Health Review

pet honesty dental health jpg

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You can add PetHonesty’s Dental Health dental water solution to your dog’s water to help reduce plaque and tartar, reduce bad bacteria in the mouth, and freshen their breath.

It contains all-natural ingredients like enzymes, grape seed extract, zinc, cinnamon, and yucca root and is a healthy alternative to some other commercial dog dental waters that contain chemicals.

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PlaqueOff Powder Review

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PlaqueOff Powder is another way to tackle buildup. The sustainably harvested, 100% natural organic kelp works with your dog’s body to help prevent plaque and dissolve existing tartar. Within 3-8 weeks, it softens the build-up, turning plaque into a softer, gloopier texture that makes it easier to brush off. The powder is sprinkled onto their food with every meal and is Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved and recommended by vets.

Our Personal Experience With PlaqueOff Powder

Person holding scoop of PlaqueOff powder in front of a dog bowl.

We started using PlaqueOff with our 3-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel after noticing his bad breath and having to do some dental extractions. We put a small scoop of it sprinkled on his morning meal every day. The powder doesn’t smell, and he doesn’t seem to notice it since he gobbles his food up on top. We use it in conjunction with brushing his teeth and dental wipes to remove the plaque, and since starting adding this to his daily regimen 4 months ago, we notice that it helps soften up stubborn build-up.

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PetLab Co. ProBright Dental Powder Review

PetLab Co. dental powder

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Another powder to help fight bad breath is PetLab Co.’s ProBright. This delicious daily dog dental cleaning powder has been clinically tested to reduce a common bad breath compound by 40% in 28 days. Adding a scoop to your dog’s food daily (size varies based on the size of your dog) can help target oral biofilm and tartar build-up. This powder is made in the US and sourced with premium ingredients.

Our Personal Experience with PetLab Co.’s ProBright Dental Powder

Check out this quick video to see how to use the powder (and if our dog liked it).

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Bark Bright Dental Chews Review

Bark Bright dental chews and toothpaste.

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BarkBox, the maker of popular dog toy subscription boxes, has developed a line of dental chews and toothpaste that work together to help clean your dog’s teeth. Simply fill the chamber with toothpaste, and it helps to break up plaque as the dog chews. Learn more about their system and if it’s a good option for you in our BARK Bright review.

Sally next to bark bright bones and toothpaste.
Sally sitting next to a bag of Bark Bright dental chews and toothpaste

Our Personal Experience With Bark Bright Dental Chews

Bark sent a BARK Bright Dental Kit for my dog, Sally, to test out in exchange for an honest review. The kit includes 30 daily chews and one tube of triple enzymatic toothpaste. Unlike other dental chews, these are meant to be used with the toothpaste. The dental chew has a groove for you to squeeze a line of toothpaste along the full length. Encouraging your dog to chew the treat can help freshen breath and reduce plaque on your dog’s teeth in just one or two weeks. Since using these dental chews, Sally’s breath has been unnoticeable, which is how I prefer it. She enjoys the taste of the treat as well. They’re made with real chicken and contain no grains, corn, or soy.

Kimberly Alt, rescue dog parent

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Dog Bad Breath Home Remedy

If you’re wondering how to make your dog’s breath smell better naturally, you have a few home remedy options that may help.

  • Parsley – Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of parsley to your dog’s meals every 2-3 days to help freshen breath
  • Apple cider vinegar – Add about 1 teaspoon to your dog’s water to help kill off odor-causing bacteria on the teeth and tongue
  • Coconut oil – Use some coconut oil when brushing your dog’s teeth to help reduce bad bacteria and get rid of bad dog breath

how to get rid of bad dog breath fast

How To Prevent Bad Breath In Dogs

Most of us associate a dog’s bad breath with something we can’t control. This is far from the truth, though. Being proactive about your pooch’s oral hygiene will help you when it comes time for all those kisses at the end of the day; plus, it’s good for your dog.

  • Schedule regular checkups to make sure he’s in the best health, and there isn’t an underlying medical issue causing the bad breath.
  • Feed your dog high-quality food that’s easy to digest.
  • Brush your dog’s teeth every day (or as regularly as possible). Be sure to use toothpaste that’s for dogs (human toothpaste can give your dog a bellyache). There is even meat-flavored toothpaste, especially for dogs.
  • Give your pup dental chews regularly. They’re a yummy treat for your dog, and they help reduce plaque and tartar build-up.
  • Take your dog for annual dental cleanings.
  • Give your dog safe, hard chew toys. Rope toys are a good option, too. Chewing helps naturally clean your dog’s teeth.
  • Edible chews are also a good option, but be sure to avoid natural bones because they’re hard enough to fracture your pup’s teeth.

Getting Rid Of Your Dog’s Body Odor

Bad dog breath isn’t the only offending odor many pup parents face. Is your dog stinky, even though you bathe him adequately? Unfortunately, some dogs get smelly even with regular bathing. If this sounds like your pup, you might want to consider getting a pet odor neutralizer that you can apply to your dog’s coat to keep all of your pups smelling fresh.

Why Trust Canine Journal?

Sadie has several years of experience with her dogs’ dental issues, including at-home dog dental cleanings as well as vet-performed treatments with and without anesthesia. In her time as a dog owner, Sadie’s dogs have experienced dental extractions and discovered a form of cancer in her dog’s mouth during a cleaning. Sadie has tested dozens of dental products with her dogs over the years and consulted with a number of veterinarians.

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The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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