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How to Fix Bad Dog Breath with 8 Easy Steps - PawSafe

How to Fix Bad Dog Breath with 8 Easy Steps

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

mouthwash blog post

Caring for our dogs’ teeth is a vital part of canine care. Since bad breath can be a sign of severe health issues, let’s look at 8 steps to fixing bad dog breath.

If you recoil from your pup every time they give you kisses, it’s time to address the doggy bad breath issue. Stinky breath is common among dogs and some pet parents, unfortunately, neglect this problem. Your dog can’t have perfectly fresh breath all the time because they’re still animals with all kinds of bacteria.  

A wide array of preventative measures against smelly breath are available. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly, using a dental formula for dogs, providing dental chews, and regular dental check-ups are some ways to fix bad dog breath. Your dog’s mouth also may smell due to underlying medical issues making a vet checkup essential. 

natural remedies for reducing bad breath in dogs

How to Prevent Bad Breath in Dogs 

Malodorous doggie breath is nothing new. Professional teeth cleaning is the best solution if plaque and tartar have become a major problem. However, taking care of your dog’s teeth to prevent bad breath and connected health issues should be a part of every pet parent’s normal maintenance routine.

Prevention is better than cure for bad dog breath. Not only will cleaning your dog’s mouth improve their overall well-being, but it will also make playtime more pleasant for you. Here are 7 easy ways to treat and prevent bad dog smell in dogs. 

Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth

Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the simplest yet one of the most effective forms of dental care. You remove plaque buildup from teeth before it has time to harden into tartar during brushing. Plaque traps food on the gum line, and the bacteria film breaks this food down, leading to a pungent smell.

Too much plaque could lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that causes them to swell and bleed easily, and periodontitis. The American Veterinary Medical Association approximates that 80% of dogs suffer from canine periodontitis before the age of 3. Advanced canine periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and permanent jaw damage.  

Neglected oral health causes not just bad breath but also fatal medical issues like kidney, liver, and heart failure. It is much better to take this preventive measure rather than deal with severe health issues stemming from a dirty mouth. 

It’s advisable to start brushing your dog’s teeth during puppyhood. Get your pup started on brushing by gently touching the gums until they’re used to it. Always use dog toothpaste as those of humans contain toxic substances like xylitol. Brush your dog’s teeth every couple of days, although even once a week will suffice.

Pros of Teeth Brushing

  • Brushing scrapes off plaque buildup;
  • Is one of the most effective measures; and
  • Effectively removes food particles from teeth crevices.

Cons of Teeth Brushing

  • Many dogs resist the process; and
  • Must be done daily and so can be time consuming.

Note: Small dog breeds like the Maltese are at higher risk of dental problems due to overcrowded teeth. Toy breeds like the Maltese are notorious for having snaggle teeth, so you must clean their teeth more frequently.

Doggy Mouthwash

A great addition to regular brushing is using doggy mouthwash in your dog’s water bowl. Various dog mouthwashes are available and can take the load of excessive brushing. 

The PawSafe dog dental rinse eliminates stinky breath and prevents oral inflammation. Mouthwashes are an effective additional treatment to keep your dog’s mouth and teeth healthy. The non-abrasive action of having a teeth cleaning agent in your dog’s water protects the enamel on their teeth and freshens their teeth without wearing them down like chew toys. 

There are several pros to a good doggy mouthwash:

Pros of Doggy Mouthwash

  • Freshens Your Dog’s Breath each time they drink water;
  • Requires minimal effort as it is just added to the drinking water;
  • Does not add unnecessary calories to your dog’s diet;
  • Is much easier if your dog hates having their teeth brushed; and
  • Minimal wear and tear on the teeth through chewing and abrasive brushing.

Cons of Doggy mouthwash

  • Dogs may still need additional occasional brushing and dental upkeep as dogs don’t gargle and may miss a few spots.

Provide Dental Chews/Treats

Dogs have an innate urge to chew, which you can use to their dental advantage. Dental chews encourage oral health by scraping off plaque and tartar buildup. Because dental chews come in different sizes, be sure to choose the best one for your breed’s size. Big dogs can swallow small chews before they do their cleaning job. 

Dental chews with a large diameter and a polyphosphate coating are particularly effective at promoting good oral health. You can look for dental chews with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHL) seal because only dental chews that clean 10 to 20% of plaque build-up are approved. 

Dental chews also alleviate boredom in your pup by providing much-needed mental stimulation. They are safer than giving your pup cooked bones which can splinter and cause choking or intestinal blockage. Don’t go overboard with dental chews to ensure your dog isn’t consuming too many calories. 

Soft dental chews are safe for your dog because very tough ones can even break an aggressively chewing pup’s teeth. Dental chews have ridges that dig into the crevices of your dog’s teeth, cleaning these areas. Chews with freshening ingredients like cinnamon, clove, or chlorophyll clean teeth better. 

You can also give your dog carrot sticks and apple slices as homemade dental chews. Our article on homemade solutions for bad dog breath covers the topic more extensively. Moderation is key because DIY chews like apples contain sugar which can be harmful, especially to dogs with diabetes or cancer.

Pros of Dental Chews

  • Scrape off plaque from the teeth leading to better oral hygiene;
  • Reduces boredom in dogs; and
  • Are better alternativ-e-archive to bones.

Cons of Dental Chews

  • Contain calories, so they must be limited; and
  • They can’t reach the top of the gumline.

Chew Toys

Dog dental chews and treats are excellent solutions for stinky breath, but your pooch can only eat so many. Dental toys are a good alternativ-e-archive when you’re watching your dog’s weight and can’t afford to add the extra calories from dental chews. Toys also tap into and accommodate your canine’s instinct to chew. 

Most dogs, especially puppies, will chew regardless. It’s best to provide a safe outlet for chewing by giving your dog toys they can chew.  The chewing staves off bad breath by encouraging saliva production, which neutralizes the acids produced by bacteria in your dog’s mouth. 

Chew toys will keep your furniture and shoes safe from dogs who are aggressive chewers. Puppies will benefit tremendously from chew toys which will alleviate their teething pain.  Find a toy appropriate for your dog’s size because small toys can be choking hazards to large dogs.

Chew toys and dental chews aren’t substitutes for good old brushing. Chews and toys can’t reach food debris that is lodged between the teeth and underneath the gums. We cover the various causes of bad dog breath to equip you with the knowledge to solve halitosis once and for all. 

Pros of Chew Toys

  • Offer a safe outlet for instinctive chewing in dogs;
  • Toys are much safer than bones for your pup; and
  • Dogs can chew on toys for as long as they’d like, unlike dental chews.

Cons of Chew Toys

  • Chewing toys can’t completely clean your dog’s mouth as brushing can.

Dental Dog Sprays

Most manufacturers of dental dog sprays claim that their products focus on tartar removal before it can progress into dental diseases. These products have different dosages depending on the dog’s size, with the best being those with the VOHL seal, although this approval isn’t all you should consider.

Dog sprays can’t replace brushing though some manufacturers claim they do as a marketing gimmick. Dental sprays can be effective when used with brushing in between the week. One of the ingredients to look for in a dental spray is chlorhexidine which has scientific backing for canine dental benefits.  

Pros of Dental Sprays

  • Some sprays have scientific backing for their antimicrobial properties; and
  • You can use sprays on days that you won’t brush your pup’s teeth.

Cons of Dental Sprays

  •  They can never replace brushing; and
  • Some sprays don’t clean teeth in the first place.

Feed a Proper Diet

What your dog eats reflects in their breath. Chronic nutrient deficiencies from an imbalanced diet can interrupt gut flora leading to gastrointestinal problems that cause bad breath. Dogs on a raw diet need regular brushing because the microbes in the uncooked meat can cause excessive bacteria in the mouth.

Healthy probiotics can also greatly encourage good bacteria in the mouth rather than bad bacteria. Lactobacillus salivarius is one safe strain of probiotic that is excellent for your dog’s dental health. 

If your dog is on a wet diet, consider alternating between dry food a few times a week. The texture of dry food promotes the removal of plaque buildup before it calcifies to tartar. You can also give your pooch dental chews if they’re on a raw or wet diet, along with brushing the teeth. Vet-approved dental diets are larger and more fibrous in texture, offering oral benefits.

What About Essential Oils for Doggy Dental Hygiene?

Experts believe that essential oils are dangerous to dogs, especially when applied orally in their pure form. Peppermint, tea tree, and cinnamon oil are some essential oils that are toxic to dogs. Be sure to consult your vet if you need to incorporate any essential oil into your pup’s cleaning regimen. 

However, you can incorporate pomegranate extract and propolis into homemade dog treats at home. Safe amounts of pomegranate extract and propolis in treats can inhibit the growth of dental calculus and help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Note, that this is only in addition to a good dental regime. 

Consider a Trip to the Vet

Yearly professional teeth cleaning is highly beneficial to your dog. Small dog breeds benefit from bi-annual professional teeth cleaning because of the greater risk of dental issues. The vet performing the cleaning can identify oral issues that would have otherwise remained unnoticed. 

A dental vet visit is the chance to remove loose and painful teeth and tartar buildup. The medic can diagnose underlying medical issues like liver problems that would cause bad breath and treat them. Prompt treatment ensures the diseases don’t progress to more severe stages.

Final Thoughts

Solutions for bad dog breath include brushing the teeth often, providing toys and chew toys, and feeding a proper diet. If bad breath persists even with proper oral hygiene, take a trip to the vet to discover whether medical conditions like kidney failure are responsible. Yearly professional teeth cleaning is essential to remove tartar and diagnose oral diseases.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.