Halitosis FAQs

Halitosis in Dogs

What specific dog breeds are more prone than others to halitosis?
It has not been reported that specific dog breeds would be more prone to halitosis. However, specific dog breeds (for example, toy breeds) are known to have more often gum disease, and therefore more often bad breath.

Do flat-nosed breeds often develop severe halitosis? Is this due to poor air circulation in their sinuses, or something else?
Small breeds and those with flat noses (brachycephalic breeds) more often have periodontal disease, likely due to their anatomical predisposition, which may be the major source of bad breath. Also, other areas, such as nose and throat, may be a source of bad breath, especially if any co-existing disease is present.

Does the fur around the snouts of "bearded" dogs (like Schnauzers) potentially contribute to bad breath?
Long hair around the mouth can more easily become dirty with food particles and saliva. This debris harbors bacteria that “feed on” this debris, resulting in an unpleasant smell. In addition, if the skin around the mouth is constantly wet, dermatitis (inflammation and infection of the skin) can develop, contributing to the smell.

What are some symptoms that might indicate there’s a more serious health problem underlying your dog’s bad breath, like periodontal disease?
When bad breath is noticed, the animal should be examined by a veterinarian. Most often oral/dental disease will be found. If the veterinarian will feel that oral/dental disease may not be the sole cause of the bad breath, he/or she will recommend additional tests (for example, blood or urine tests) and procedures to rule out other possible causes (diseases) of bad breath.

How should dog owners gauge the level of their dog’s breath to determine if it’s time to visit a veterinarian for an evaluation?
Bad breath in your pet is very often associated with a health problem and should be taken seriously, and the animal evaluated by a veterinarian. Ideally, an animal is evaluated by a veterinarian and/or a veterinary dentist every year.

What are some health issues that bad breath might be a symptom of in younger pets? In older pets?
As known from human medicine, the far most common origin of bad breath is the mouth. The source of bad breath is the bacteria in the biofilms, which cover all oral surfaces, but especially the tongue and gums. When gum disease (periodontal disease) is present, this can be the major source of bad breath. Almost all older animals have some stage of periodontal disease. Other oral and dental diseases, such as broken and infected teeth, severe oral inflammation, oral cancer and foreign bodies can also cause severe bad breath. These diseases can affect an animal at any age. Other potential sources of bad breath are the nose, throat and tonsils, lungs, esophagus and stomach. Some systemic diseases (for example, liver disease, kidney disease and diabetes mellitus) can also cause bad breath. Most of these diseases also tend to develop more often with increasing age of the animal, but an animal can have a serious medical issue at any age.

What can dog owners do to prevent halitosis and keep their dog’s breath fresh?
Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard to remove bacteria from the dental and (if an animal allows) other oral surfaces. Together with regular professional periodontal treatments, this will help prevent development of periodontal disease and bad breath. In addition to daily tooth brushing, one can also use dog tooth pastes and other products for improvement of oral health in an animal (for example, oral rinses, chewing products). If an animal with a healthy oral cavity would still suffer from bad breath, then other diseases will need to be ruled out by a veterinarian.