What Causes Bad Breath in Puppies?

What Causes Bad Breath in Puppies?

A woman winces at her puppy's bad breath.A woman winces at her puppy's bad breath.
A woman winces at her puppy's bad breath.A woman winces at her puppy's bad breath.

Bad breath is one of the most common symptoms in dogs and is a very familiar complaint from pet owners. It most often occurs in adult or senior dogs, but puppies can get bad breath too! Learn more about bad breath in older dogs in our articles on the Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs and Why Some Dogs’ Breath Smells like Fish.

Below, we will review common causes of bad breath in puppies, how to stop bad breath, and review products you can use to make your puppy’s bad breath better.

Why Do Puppies Get Bad Breath?

Below are 8 possible causes of bad breath in puppies:

  • Ingestion of Stinky Stuff. Puppies explore the world with their mouths and can chew on and/or ingest things as they explore. This is especially true with puppies that are teething between the ages of 8 weeks and 6 months. Learn more about Teething in Puppies. Puppies may ingest foul and sometimes stinky things that can cause bad breath. Some examples include dead animals they may find in the yard, mulch, compost, trash, and/or spoiled food.
  • Ingestion of Foreign Bodies. Puppies may ingest indigestible objects that can lead to problems that cause bad breath. Ingested items can get stuck in the stomach and intestinal tract, which can cause vomiting and halitosis. Learn more about Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs and Puppies.
  • Tooth Abscess. A tooth abscess is a dental infection around the tooth that can cause bad breath. Although less common in puppies, it is possible to have an infected tooth at any age.
  • Oral Ulcerations and Infections. Ulcers in the mouth can occur from a puppy that ingests or licks caustic substances. Because puppies are curious, they commonly get into things causing chemical exposure that can lead to oral ulcerations and infections. Caustic substances that a puppy may lick or chew on include cleaning chemicals, soap and detergents, laundry or dishwater detergent pods, and liquid potpourri. These agents can cause oral ulcerations and infections that cause bad breath in puppies. Another cause for an oral infection is wounds that occur from a fight. Some dogs sustain bites around and in the mouth from fights with other animals.
  • Respiratory Infections. Pneumonia and infections of the trachea can cause foul smelling breath. It can be especially noticeable during exhalation (breathing out) and coughing.
  • Problems with Bones. Some bones given to puppies can break and splinter causing trauma to the oral tissues. Bones can also become lodged in the roof of the mouth or around the lower teeth and jaw. This can cause trauma to the tissues, an infection, and foul odor.
  • Digestive Problems. Some puppies may have underlying digestive problems that can lead to bad breath. Feeding a high-quality, easily digestible food specifically formulated for puppies can help digestion and prevent bad breath. In addition, puppies may have worms, which should be treated by your veterinarian with a deworming medication.
  • Other. There are additional causes of foul breath in dogs that don’t commonly occur in puppies, but are common in adult dogs. They may include diseases such as gum disease, periodontal disease, oral tumors, lung cancer, kidney disease, and uncontrolled diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis). Some pet owners even describe their dog’s breath as having a foul fish type odor.

If you suspect your puppy has any of the issues identified above, is not eating, vomiting, appears lethargic, is coughing, and/or appears to have pain around the mouth, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your vet can help you evaluate your puppy for abnormalities that can cause bad breath.

How to Stop Bad Breath in Puppies

Below are a few simple tips to help stop bad breath in puppies:

  • Brush those teeth. One of the best things you can do to help bad breath in puppies is to brush their teeth. Make brushing a positive experience. Pick out a veterinarian-approved toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste that has an appealing flavor to your puppy. Start slowly by touching your puppy’s teeth and gums gently and rewarding your puppy with praise for positive behavior. Brushing your pup’s teeth will help to remove tartar and reduce bad breath. Learn more about How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth and about dental products for dogs.
  • Provide safe chew toys. Ensure your puppy has plenty of safe chew toys that cannot be ingested. Some puppies will chew on and ingest toys, which can lead to a life-threatening obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Ensure all toys are appropriate for your puppy’s size and are not a choking hazard.
  • Herbs. A natural way to help freshen your puppy’s bad breath is by offering herbs. You can add ½ teaspoon of fresh cut mint, parsley, or coriander leaves to your puppy’s food or offer the herb as a treat. You can also make a “tea” that you can add to their drinking water. Learn more about how to use herbs to freshen your puppy’s breath in this article: Home Remedies for Your Puppy’s Bad Breath.
  • Water. Offer fresh clean water to your puppy every day. Scrub the water bowl at least weekly with mild detergent and rinse well to remove bacteria.
  • Pick your puppy’s food with care. Feed a high-quality diet formulated for puppies. Ensure the food you are feeding is not expired. Seal open bags or store the food in a sealed container. Wash all food bowls daily.

We hope this article provides you with more information on bad breath in puppies and offers some home remedies for bad breath.

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