Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Rotten?

Is your dog’s breath making you cringe? Dog breath is no laughing matter, but it can be improved.

My dog’s breath smells like a dead animal

What causes a dog’s breath to smell like something dead? Nobody likes stinky dog breath and while it can be irritating, bad breath can be a sign of illness, so you should pay attention to the smell so you can try and fix the problem.

1. Dental issues

If your dog’s breath smells like a dead animal, this could be a sign that they have dental issues such as gum disease, tooth decay or an infection. The smell is caused by decaying or infected tissue.

2. Kidney disease

A dog with breath that smells like urine most likely has kidney disease. Dogs that are suffering from kidney problems will often drink their own urine which is the cause of their foul-smelling breath.

3. Anal gland problems

There are a number of causes of fishy breath. Anal gland problems are the most common. The anal glands produce a unique odor which is what dogs use as their marking scent. If your dog’s anal glands are not expressed properly, the smell will build up. It is a dirty, smelly process and most dog owners prefer their vet to do it for them.

4. Cat poop or dead animals

Dogs are known to have an unfortunate fondness for eating cat poop. You may have a dog that loves to eat dead animals. Eating fouling-smelling things will result in a foul-smelling breath!

5. Medical conditions

Sometimes you can’t quite work out what your dog’s breath smells like but it certainly isn’t pleasant. Diabetic dogs often have a sweet, fruity breath but in a “left out in the sun” kind of way. Other medical conditions that cause bad breath include liver disease (causes frequent vomiting), gastrointestinal issues or lung infections.

How do you get rid of rotten dog breath?

The first step to eliminating that foul odor is to work out the cause of the smell. As soon as you notice that your dog’s breath has changed or got worse, you should have them checked by a veterinarian.

Treating the underlying medical condition will often significantly reduce your dog’s bad breath to a more manageable odor.

Simple changes you can make in the home can also vastly improve your dog’s breath. Ensure that you are washing your dog’s water bowl daily and giving them fresh water. Dogs who drool are more likely to have bad breath and that drool often ends up in their water bowl.

Your next step should be to look at their diet. Good quality dog food made with fresh ingredients should not leave your dog with bad breath. A diet that is high in carbs is more likely to cause bad breath. Try to choose a dog food that has one or two protein sources, for example, chicken and beef or lamb and duck.

You can also promote better-smelling breath by adding in a small amount of fresh mint, sage or parsley to your dog’s meals. Mint not only smells great but is also tasty and many dogs like it. Sage has antiseptic properties and also helps to prevent the build-up of bacteria, so it is especially good for dogs with dental problems. Parsley improves digestive function as well as adds flavor and smells great.

Just like we clean our teeth every day, you should be cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly to prevent tartar buildup, gum disease, and bad breath.

Some dogs may not enjoy having their teeth cleaned, but you can train them quite easily to tolerate it. You can purchase specially formulated doggy toothpaste from your local pet store and also doggy toothbrushes that slide onto the end of your finger.

To clean your dog’s teeth, gently lift the lip so you can see the teeth and gently brush just like you would with your own teeth. Be sure to reach the teeth at the back as this is where bacteria and tartar will build up the quickest.

Give your dog lots of soothing verbal praise when they are calm and reward them afterward with a play session. Once a week is a good goal for teeth brushing but you can do it more often.

Can cancer cause bad breath in dogs?

Some dogs’ mouths and noses were designed to be germ-free, so bacteria don’t survive well there. However, when cancer changes the structure of these organs, they become infected with bacteria and other microorganisms that cause odors.

Odors from these infections are usually very strong and unpleasant, although it’s possible for dogs to have cancer without having a noticeable odor. This is why you should always consult a veterinarian about any change in your dog’s breath, no matter how subtle the change might seem.

Your veterinarian will conduct a physical examination and possibly run some tests to identify the causes of foul breath in dogs. If cancer is suspected, your vet will refer you to a veterinary oncologist for more testing and possibly treatment.

Can stomach problems cause bad breath?

It’s possible for bad breath to be caused by an underlying medical problem. Dogs with stomach problems may have a sickly sweet smell to their breath, while dogs that have recently eaten any kind of garbage might have a foul-smelling breath.

If your dog’s breath smells like a dead animal, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible. This is one symptom of liver or kidney problems. If the cause is not readily apparent, your veterinarian will likely perform some tests to determine whether your pet has an infection, a disease, or other medical condition that needs to be treated.


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Hannah Elizabeth is an English animal behavior author, having written for several online publications. With a degree in Animal Behaviour and over a decade of practical animal husbandry experience, Hannah's articles cover everything from pet care to wildlife conservation. When she isn't creating content for blog posts, Hannah enjoys long walks with her Rottweiler cross Senna, reading fantasy novels and breeding aquarium shrimp.

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