Doggy Breath: 5 Potential Reasons for the Problem!

Doggy Breath: 5 Potential Reasons for the Problem!

“Did you know that 3 out of 4 dogs have gum disease by the time they reach the age of 3?” Such are the findings of many experts, including Lori Taylor of TrueDog (quoted above). No wonder our furry friends seem to have serious breath issues much of the time! While the subject is often treated lightly, sometimes “dog breath” can actually indicate serious problems if coupled with other indicative symptoms.

Check out the 5 commonly identified reasons for bad “doggy breath” below for more information! Perhaps you’ll leave this page as quite the expert!

Doggy Breath Problem #1: Smelly Food

Let’s face it. From eating their own poop (totally gross!) to poking at the dead carcass of a poor old bird, our pets don’t always seem to show the best judgment in healthy and sweet-breath enhancing cuisine! Both our puppies and our big dog friends seem to really enjoy these occasional and questionably delicious dishes.

The smelly breath that follows simply has to do with the fact that we don’t always brush our pets’ teeth as frequently as we do our own (or ought to); and so, smellier breath can ensue! (That’s not to say however that there are no ways to reverse this trend!). Brushing your dog’s teeth every day just might help him have pretty good breath most of the time!

Doggy Breath Problem #2: Gingivitis

Most experts will agree that the underlying cause for all gum disease (often for humans as well as for pets) has to do with the buildup of bacteria in the mouth. If the bacteria is not gotten rid of by regular dental care or by other more natural means (i.e. food that is hard enough to scrape away at the plaque/bacteria buildup) then the bacteria will remain. Over time it may harden into calculus as well, and it will cause the gums to become infected which could be painful for the dog in addition to being the predecessor of the much more harmful Periodontal disease.

This earliest stage of buildup and inflammation is known as Gingivitis. If your dog has this condition, one sign which may show up sooner than others is halitosis, a.k.a., bad breath. You can use your knowledge of this symptom to proactively treat your pet for long-term protection against Periodontitis!

Doggy Breath Problem #3: Periodontal Disease

As before stated, Periodontitis, better known as Periodontal Disease, can be potentially fatal for an animal. It’s fatal element has to do with the alarmingly large amounts of bacteria that find a home in the mouth of your furry pet, increasing the potential for their entry into the bloodstream, which can lead to harmful bacteria finding a place to stay where it is most definitely not welcome, such as in the kidney or liver.

A symptom of Periodontitis is, of course, bad breath. Your awareness of your pet’s overall condition can help you pinpoint whether your pet could have this disease.

You may want to know more about what Periodontitis actually is. In essence, Periodontal disease is a much more severe state of infection and bone decay in the mouth than is seen in cases of Gingivitis. Periodontitis is the state of decay in which bacteria has overwhelmed the mouth and has actually eaten away at the gum line, separating a dog’s teeth from his gums, and basically creating big spaces in a dog’s mouth where the gums once were.

Instead of strong healthy gums, your pup would have caverns of space filled with bacteria that eat away even further into the gum line and eventually into the bone and tissue of the mouth. Periodontitis is irreversible. This is why early awareness and treatment of Gingivitis is the best option for your pet since it can be reversed! Periodontal disease can be treated, but it is definitely more serious than it’s predecessor.

Doggy Breath Problem #4: Ketoacidosis: an Acute Diabetic Condition

Untreated Diabetes can lead to dog blindness, urinary tract infections (UTI’s), seizures, kidney failures, and, sometimes most fatally, Ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis, the aspect of diabetic conditions that we are looking at today, can be signaled by many things, including rapid breathing, dehydration, lethargy, vomiting, and sweet-smelling breath (according to this article regarding pet diabetes).

While we have spent most of this blog talking about bad-smelling breath, we felt it important to bring up this instance in which good-smelling, or, abnormally sweet-smelling breath can actually be a signal to you that could save your dog’s life.

If your dog happened to be suffering from untreated diabetes of which you were unaware, he would be at risk for many things (as you have no doubt already seen from the list above!). But Ketoacidosis is perhaps the most alarming one because it is an acute condition which calls for emergency intervention in order for a pet to have the best chance at survival.

Owners of dogs with diagnosed diabetes are encouraged by vets to carry what are called “ketone sticks” which they can use to test their pup’s urine in order to determine whether Ketoacidosis is occurring in their pet, should the symptoms mentioned above present themselves. But should you not have one, use the signs listed, especially that of sweet-smelling breath, as your signal to seek immediate care!

Doggy Breath Problem #5: Kidney Problems

Kidneys, as many of us know, are a very important organ in the body. They, among other things, help the body get rid of toxic substances in the blood! Your pet needs his kidneys to do almost the same sorts of things kidneys do for you as a human. However, sometimes the kidney might not work properly.

A failing kidney is never good. Therefore, take advantage of knowing ahead of time the possible signs of kidney malfunctioning! (Which includes bad “doggy breath”).

A failing kidney will often show itself through the following ways (the complete list being found in this article!)

  • Sudden change in a dog’s well-being
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased urination
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bad breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Change in bone structure
  • Very little urination

This is a long list! However, what is good about it is that most of these symptoms can be identified by just about anybody. Number 6 especially may stand out, as many attentive dog owners seem to notice right away if their dog has strange breath issues.

. . .

In general, as an attentive pet parent, you will probably notice if any variations arise in the everyday aspects of your pet’s life, and being aware of the possible reasons for a change can help you take action! These types of changes may not occur often. But when they do, you want to be armed and aware. Talk to your vet if anything alarming happens in the life or actions of your pet in order to help him live a long, healthy, and active life!


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Shallowford Animal Hospital and The Pet Spa at Shallowford are dedicated to the exceptional, compassionate care your pet deserves. Pets hold a very special place in our families, and we treat yours like our own.