May 05, 2021 3 min read

From drinking toilet water to nosing around in the garbage, it’s no surprise that most dogs have bad breath. Most dog owners know that dog breath is unpleasant, but there can be more to stinky breath than one might think.

Though every dog will have bad breath occasionally, normal dog breath shouldn’t have much of an odor. A healthy dog mouth has a neutral smell. Sometimes dogs will drink toilet water, eat garbage, or ingest other gross things that can cause bad breath. This, however, should pass rather quickly as it passes through their system.

If your dog has noticeable bad breath all the time, this may be a sign of health issues. There are common causes of chronic bad breath that may be affecting your dog.

Bad oral hygiene

The most common cause of bad dog breath is bad oral hygiene and periodontal disease. According to the American Kennel Club, the build-up of plaque and tartar can lead to the development of bacteria that will cause bad breath. If there is too much plaque and tartar build-up, your dog can get periodontal disease. This can lead to an inflammation of the gums, infection, and tooth loss.

If your dog is not a chewer or if you don’t brush your dog’s teeth or get them cleaned, then plaque build-up is the most likely cause of bad breath. Talk with your vet about brushing your dog’s teeth or having a professional cleaning. Bully sticks and other dog chews are also helpful in avoiding plaque build-up.

Dietary habits

What your dog is eating can also cause bad breath. Spoiled foods, drinking toilet water, or coprophagia – the habit of certain dogs eating feces – could be upsetting their digestive tract and lead to smelly breath. Pay attention to what your dog is eating and if anything in particular causes an upset stomach, gas, or noticeably bad breath.

Avoid dogs getting into things they shouldn’t by taking preventative measures. Make sure the lid to your toilets are down and that any garbage cans have lids or are difficult to knock over. If you have other pets with litter boxes, ensure that these are in a separate area that is hard for your dog to access.

Kidney or liver disease

While rare, kidney or liver disease can be a cause of bad breath among dogs. If your dog’s breath smells like urine, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. This could be a sign of kidney disease. Kidney failure and liver disease can lead to the production of high levels of certain metabolites in the blood which will result in bad breath.

Bad breath accompanied by yellow gums or a lack of appetite or vomiting could be a sign of liver disease. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, visit your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Diabetes can also play a role in dog breath. If your dog has diabetes, their breath may have a sweet or fruity smell. This is often accompanied by symptoms such as excessive thirst, an increase in urination, weight loss, or an increased appetite.

If you suspect this may be the cause of your dog’s bad breath, seek advice from a veterinarian as soon as possible. Diabetes can be a serious health threat for dogs if left untreated and early detection and proper treatment are crucial.


Sometimes dogs can get a sinus infection, which will block their nasal passages and dry out their mouths. Their breath will smell bad due to inflammation and infection. Set up an appointment with your vet if your dog is sick and may have a sinus infection.


The majority of bad dog breath is harmless and should pass with time and proper dental care and diet. Learn about ways to improve your dog’s breath or other health tips in our blog. For great deals on chews to scrape away plaque and tartar, check out our website.

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