Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Recognizing and understanding your dog's symptoms can be tricky.

Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Your dog won't come up to you and say, “Listen, my belly really hurts, I think I should see a doctor.”

That's why it is crucial to pay attention to non-verbal signs of disease, otherwise known as symptoms.

The best veterinarian in the world won't be of any help if you don't know when to bring your dog in.

Regular check-ups certainly help to discover trouble in the making, but not a problem should wait that long.

When is bad breath a symptom of disease?

Your dog can get bad breath from eating something deliciously rotten. That, of course, doesn't count.

If however, your dog has persistently bad breath, you need to take note.

The most common cause of bad breath in dogs is a dental disease.

Now, dental disease is not an immediate rush-to-the-emergency-vet type of threat, but it isn't something to ignore either. Bad teeth are not just a cosmetic issue. They can be extremely painful and even lead to systemic disease!

The bacteria associated with dental disease can lead to life-threatening infections affecting the heart, kidney, and liver!

You can read more about it in my earlier article: Know Your Dog's Enemies: When Bad Breath Can Kill!

If your dog has bad breath; discolored, loose, broken or missing teeth; red swollen gums that bleed easily; a painful mouth; or drools excessively, please have it checked and get those teeth taken care of!

Dental disease is a serious issue but it is not the only potential cause of bad breath.

Bad breath can also be a symptom of other serious health issues such as gastrointestinal, respiratory or autoimmune diseases; metabolic disorders; oral cancer; and more!

So please, instead of spending money on products that mask your dog's bad breath, look for a cause.

For example, severe kidney disease can cause significantly bad breath. Friends from the dog park had a dog that suddenly started having very bad breath. They figured his teeth needed cleaning and scheduled an appointment for the procedure. When they finally got him in, the veterinarian found their dog was in kidney failure. With dialysis, they got one extra day to say goodbye to him!

Clearly, they must have missed a bunch of other symptoms too!

The best way to deal with bad breath is by treating the underlying disease!

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: When Bad Breath Can Kill!
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Drinking
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: Excessive Panting
Where There Is Smoke, There Is Fire: A Symptom Is Your Friend!
When Is It An Emergency?

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:


  1. This advice goes for the two leggers, too! Dental infections can lead to brain and heart infections or strokes. But I did not know that bad breath and be a sign of kindey failure in animals. Thanks for sharing the info!

  2. Yes, it's for bipeds too. Though those are usually rather neglected in our house ;-)

    Yes, bad breath can come from the mouth, but can also come from within the system. If the mouth checks out, gotta look further for a cause.

  3. Thanks for this important information. Here I always assumed that bad breath meant nothing more than an offensive odour. I will definitely pay attention to this from now on.

  4. Really useful info - thanks Jana!

  5. Great post! My vet looks at my teeth and sniffs my nose when she checks me. Momma tries to brush my teeth, but I'm still gettin' tartar. Yep! check both ends of us, the head and the tail for symptoms...we want to feel good so we can take care of you.

    Hawk aka BrownDog

  6. Kristine, yes, it means more than offensive odor (unless just eaten something nasty). Bottom line is the odor has to come from somewhere, whether it's bacterial, or metabolic ...

  7. Hi Hawk, great vet you have. Can you have raw meaty bones? Gnawing on those really helps the teeth.

    Our late rescue also did well with the t/d prescription diet, it cleaned his teeth right up. Too bad that it suck as food. But it is good for the teeth.

  8. reading this late. great info, jana! halitosis can certainly indicate underlying serious issues.

    am perhaps belatedly trying to teach georgia to tolerate having her teeth brushed. she gets raw bones too, but they don't seem to be enough.

    re: what karen said - one of my [human] friends was hospitalised from what he thought was a toothache, but turned out to be an infection that "went" to his brain. he's ok now but it was pretty bad for a while there.

  9. Hi Georgia.

    It's never too late to start brushing, though if the teeth are looking badly you might need your vet to clean them.

    I think it's interesting that some dogs do fine with just raw bones and some get the teeth bad eventually no matter what. Considering Jasmine's case I'm thinking whether it might also have to do with saliva production (Jasmine doesn't make much and doesn't seem as 'potent' as J.D.'s for example

    t/d worked really well for our late rescue. His teeth looked horrible, but the t/d cleaned them right up. Problem is that as food I don't think it's very good at all. But did work for the teeth as he was having it for dinner for the time being.

    Sorry to hear about your human friend, glad he's ok now though!

  10. PS: It is possible that's what Roxy had died off - she started with a tootache, then started falling all over the place, went into seizures ... and that was that.

  11. Helpful. I think I should start doing that. I will also consult my chandler dentist for further instructions and information.

  12. If a dog had a problem with dental would it causevomitting

  13. My old dog has loose tooth, no other things bother the beagle. Is it important to have him undergo tooth extraction surgery

    1. The thing is, that the tooth isn't loose without a reason. There is a disease process going on in there, which does need to be addressed. I'd do a full dental with anesthesia and x-rays and recommendation of the vet who's doing the dental.

  14. My dog's breath has developed an extremely foul odor after having lost a tooth while biting a bone. Is there anything that can be done?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Has he been to a vet after he lost the tooth? It is possible the tooth broke and rest is still rotting in the gum. It is possible the tooth was already sitting in an infected jaw. Please see a vet and have dental x-rays done and whatever dental work your dog needs.


Post a Comment