How to Combat Your Dog’s Bad Breath

You love everything about your dog — well, almost everything.

Bad breath can put a wedge between you and that perfect doggie face you adore. The good news about bad breath though is that there are things you can do about it.

We consulted with Ari Zabell DVM from Banfield Pet Hospital on tips for doing just that. But first things first, it’s time for a smell test.

Ready? Breath it all in. It should smell a little something like this:

“It’s realistic to expect a dog’s breath to be a neutral smell with dog food mixed in,” Zabell explains. “If your dog’s breath smells worse than that or is strong enough that you notice it even when he or she isn’t breathing on you, it may be in the best interest of your dog’s health to partner with your veterinarian on a solution.”

#1. Regular Teeth Cleanings are Key.

Those pearly whites have to last a lifetime, so do what you can to take care of them! Banfield recommends that healthy adult dogs have their teeth professionally cleaned at least once each year, with some dogs requiring teeth cleanings even more often. “Small dogs and certain breeds like Chihuahuas, pugs and Dachshunds tend to need more frequent dental cleanings,” Zabell says. “It’s also advisable to supplement professional cleanings with regular brushing at home. The more frequently and thoroughly you are able to clean your dog’s teeth, the more likely they are to stay healthy between cleanings.” For tips on how to do-it-yourself, click here. 

#2. Try Teeth Cleaning Chews.

While obviously not as thorough as a good profession cleaning, chews can help keep your dog’s teeth clean, Zabell says, if your dog will munch on them. “Many dogs love the flavor of dog chews and will eat them but they don’t always chew them, which is what enables them to do their work,” he says. “Dental chews don’t resolve dental disease, which could include a broken tooth, gingivitis or other problems beyond minor plaque deposits. Partner with your veterinarian to address any such concerns.”

#3. Pay Attention to the Food You’re Feeding Your Pup. 

Hey, you are what you eat. “Dog foods can impact breath,” Zabell explains. “For example, foods that contain high levels of fish oil or other nutrients can impact a dog’s breath – but not necessarily for the worse. Sometimes, an upset stomach can cause unpleasant breath if your dog is having difficulty digesting food. The smell of a diseased mouth, however, is very different than the smell of a strong or indigestible diet; the two should not be confused – dental disease requires medical attention.”

#4. Skip the Supplements. 

It’s quite simple, according to Zabell, the most natural way to combat bad dog breath – and dental disease – is to keep your dog’s teeth clean. “What aren’t always effective – or healthy, for that matter – are methods such as feeding activated charcoal or other supplements,” he adds. “It’s always best to partner with your veterinarian to understand and address your dog’s individual dental and nutritional needs.”

#5. Be Realistic About How Good Your Dog’s Breath Can Be. 

That mouth may never be minty fresh, nor should it be. “Your dog should always have breath that smells like a dog, not like a human’s toothpaste,” Zabell says. “Good dental hygiene, ensuring your dog has access to plenty of cool water, and feeding a good diet that your pet is able to digest are the keys to maintaining ‘good’ dog breath. If you aren’t getting the results you want, consult with your veterinarian for an evaluation – a dog’s mouth has lots of hidden spaces that you can’t always see, so it’s critical to remain diligent about dental hygiene throughout your dog’s life.”

#6. Consult with Your Veterinarian.

Horribly bad dog breath could be a sign of something more serious. “Severe dental disease can cause some of the worst dog breath imaginable,” Zabell says. “Dental disease might require tooth extractions, antibiotics and even anti-inflammatory medications in extreme cases. Severe stomach or gastro-intestinal disease can also cause noticeable changes in to your dog’s breath, which also require medical attention.” So, if you’re concerned, it’s always best to make an appointment.

For more information on caring for your dog’s teeth, visit Banfield’s website.


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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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