It's called canine halitosis, and here are the expert tips for tackling it.

By Caroline Biggs
December 20, 2019

For as much as we love snuggling up with our beloved pooches, their bad breath is admittedly less lovable. And while it might seem that all dogs inevitably have, well, stinky breath, our expert says it actually might indicate a greater oral issue. "The most common reason for halitosis, the medical term for bad breath, is dental disease," says Dr. Ruth MacPete, veterinarian and author of the award-winning children's book Lisette the Vet. "Dental disease occurs when food, saliva, and bacteria combine to form plaque. Unless removed, plaque mineralizes to form tartar. Tartar then promotes bacterial overgrowth leading to bad breath."

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Fortunately, Dr. MacPete says there are several steps you can take to both treat and prevent odorous dog breath at home—after checking with your veterinarian first. "The most important thing pet parents need to know is that an oral odor can be a sign of disease," she says. "If you notice that your pet suddenly has 'doggy breath', be sure to have them checked out by your veterinarian to ensure that the new smell isn't a sign of something serious." Once you've got the okay from your vet, here's what Dr. MacPete says you can do to rid your pooch of bad breath for good.

Related: Why It's Important to Clean Your Dog or Cat's Teeth

Get Your Dog's Teeth Checked Yearly

According to Dr. MacPete, the smartest thing you can do to prevent canine halitosis in the first place is to take your dog to the vet for an annual checkup. "Have your pet's teeth checked at least once a year to be sure they do not need a professional cleaning," she says. "If your dog's bad breath is due to dental disease, a complete dental cleaning by your veterinarian is necessary."

Brush Your Dog's Teeth at Home

Just as humans need to brush their teeth to keep odor-causing germs and bacteria at bay, your dog's teeth needs regular treatment, too. "Once your dog's teeth are clean, help prevent 'doggy breath' by brushing your pet's teeth regularly with pet-safe toothpaste," Dr. MacPete says. To safely brush your pooch's teeth at home, opt for a dog-friendly toothpaste that doesn't require an actual brush, like Petsmile Professional Dog Toothpaste ($25.25, amazon.com), so you can swipe the paste on their teeth two to three times a week to proactively prevent plaque and other causes of bad breath.

Put Your Dog on a Dental Diet

If regular teeth cleanings aren't treating the stinky breath, it might be time to consider a different diet for your dog. "Talk to your veterinarian about whether a dental diet would be good for your particular pet," Dr. MacPete says. "These diets do not replace cleanings (if your pet already has significant dental disease) but they can help reduce the plaque that leads to tartar formation."

Try Other Over-the-Counter Treatments

When all else fails, Dr. MacPete says you can always head to your local pet store and pick up some pet-safe, canine dental accessories to tackle foul-smelling dog breath. "While nothing beats regular brushing, consider using pet dental rinses, dental treats, or dental toys to help reduce the bacteria and plaque that lead to tartar formation," she says.

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