What Your Dog’s Bad Breath Means

Bad breath (halitosis) in dogs is not uncommon but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about it.

In addition to being unpleasant it can mean your dog has a health issue or is suffering from a disease.


  • Diabetes
  • Liver Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • Respiratory Tract Issues
  • Eating Unfavourable Items
  • Poor Oral Hygiene & Gum (Periodontal) Disease


A bad breath with a sweet waft isn’t any better. In fact, it could indicate that something more serious is wrong – like diabetes. While diabetes is a scary thought it can be treated but sooner is better. Your veterinarian can tell you more about other signs to be aware of so take your dog to go see them as soon as possible.

Bacteria, fed by excess sugar in the body, could cause a sour smelling breath while yeast growing in the mouth may lead to a musty smell.

Liver Disease

Really bad breath combined with other alarming signs is serious cause for concern. Issues with the liver may manifest in inappetence, yellow discolouration of the gums and vomiting. Serious signs like these require immediate action so be sure to visit your veterinarian to get to the bottom of it. 

Kidney Disease

If it smells like your dog drank urine, they probably didn’t. Instead, it could be a sign of kidney disease which is serious. Even more worrying, a metallic or ammonia odour could indicate kidney failure. Don’t take risks, rather take your dog to a veterinarian for answers.

Respiratory Tract Issues

Your dog’s bad breath may come from a nasal infection, sinusitis or even a nasal tumour. The cause of the odour is often pus that runs down the back of the throat.

Eating Unfavourable Items

If your dog ate something that’s totally unsavoury or unsanitary, their breath may tell the tale. It may be curiosity, bad behaviour or a poor habit… like eating animal remains, garbage or faeces.

Poor Oral Hygiene & Periodontal Disease

Two of the main causes of bad breath are poor oral hygiene and gum (periodontal) disease.

The first, poor oral hygiene, can lead to the buildup of bacterial plaque and tartar. If not addressed, it can eventually result in gum disease. When gums start to recede, exposing more surface for bacteria to attack, it opens a whole world of possible problems including cavities, inflammation of the gums, infection, pus, tissue destruction and tooth loss.

Measures that help prevent or slow down plaque buildup include regular brushing, routine teeth cleaning performed by a professional and chewing on appropriate items.

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