What Can I Give My Dog For Bad Breath? Fact Checked By Our Vet
If you share your space and your life with a canine companion, you must have encountered the problem of bad breath at least once in your life. And if your furry friend is affectionate and loves to give kisses, it can get quite annoying. But do we have to simply suffer through the smelliness for the sake of our beloved dogs? Not necessarily.
If you’ve ever asked yourself the question - what can I give my dog for bad breath? - This guide is for you. These are some of the strategies you can try for dealing with the ages-old breath issue:
Dog Bad Breath Remedies
#1 Clean Your Dog’s Teeth
It might sound too simple to be true, but the number one cause of smelly breath in dogs is poor oral hygiene. Many new pet parents do not know this, but brushing a dog’s teeth is not only acceptable but recommended by most veterinarians to maintain the oral health of your dog.
A good doggie toothbrush should be one of the first items on your canine gear list. Getting used to cleaning your dog’s teeth can be a bit of a process both for you and your dog. However, most dogs get used to it quite quickly, and so do humans. Once you see your furry friend’s breath and teeth improve, you’ll never want to go back!
To start good teeth cleaning routine, you’ll need to pick up a toothbrush made specifically for dogs and start slowly by getting your dog used to the feel of it. Once this step is complete, you can start using toothpaste, but make sure it’s one made for dogs and not for humans (they are very different).
An alternative solution to dog toothbrushes can be dental wipes. These single-use wipes come soaked in a solution like doggie toothpaste and are great for cleaning your pup’s teeth when you don’t have time for full brushing.
#2 Dental Chew Toys
An alternative approach to cleaning a dog’s teeth is letting the dog do it instead. But how can we convince dogs to brush their teeth? Well, of course, by appealing to their natural chewing instinct.
There are many chew toys available, made of rubber or something similar, that are designed specifically to imitate the effect of a toothbrush. These toys will typically have a lot of little crevices and textured ridges that will wrap around your pup’s teeth as they chew.
These types of toys are a great solution for dogs who love playing with chew toys. The key is finding the right size and the right level of toughness in your dog’s new toy. You don’t want a toy so soft it will get ripped into pieces within half an hour, but you also don’t want it to be too hard. There is no right way to go here - it all depends on the temperament of your dog.
If you can get some doggie toothpaste onto the toy and convince them to start chewing, even better! This way, your dog will practically be brushing their own teeth.
#3 Dental Treats
Besides permanent chewing toys, there are also dental treats you can give your dog. You’ve heard about dental sticks and the like; you’ve probably also seen some at your local supermarket, but you might be wondering - do they work?
The answer is, well, it depends. The key is, as always, finding what works for your dog personally. Dental chew treats are often designed to be gummy and tough. The idea is that your dog will spend some time chewing up the treat, and its textured surface will help clean the teeth. This method can often work quite well for smaller dogs, but power chewers can destroy a dental stick so fast that it doesn’t have any effect.
Some dental treats also contain active ingredients to help fight plaque buildup which is a big cause of foul-smelling breath in dogs. Some also contain aromatic compounds to help mask the weird smells.
One simple solution for dog breath could be switching to high-quality dry kibble (if that’s not what they are already eating, of course). While there is some disagreement on whether the idea that a dry diet improves a dog’s breath is a myth or fact, it does work for some dogs.
Munching on crunchy kibble (the larger the better) can lead to cleaner teeth and better-smelling breath, at least for some dogs. This is by no means a magical cure for every case of smelly breath, but it’s worth a try.
#5 Raw Bones
The most natural way to clean a dog’s teeth. Feed them a bone! Yes, raw meaty bones can improve a dog’s breath by giving them cleaner teeth.
Now, before you go ahead and treat your dog to a large bone, we must offer a disclaimer: bones are very much a matter of controversy among vets, breeders, and pet parents (1). While some swear on their benefits for dental health, others emphasize the potential dangers of bones such as broken teeth or intestinal blockages caused by swallowing small pieces.
In any case, if you choose to offer a bone, always keep a close eye on your dog while they are chewing, and always choose large raw bones. Never feed cooked bones because they are too brittle.
#6 Water Additives
Water additives are a relatively new product on the pet market that is supposed to keep your dog’s breath and mouth clean and fresh without any effort. Just put a couple of drops in your dog’s drinking water, and it’s all good? The truth is, there is no magic solution for dental hygiene, and these water additives ain’t it which is why many vets are sceptical about them (2).
Still, they can work as a quick fix, to an extent. Just be careful to check the ingredient list carefully and monitor your dog’s reaction when you first introduce the enhanced water.
#7 Sprays and Gels for Fresh Breath
There are a variety of sprays and gels you can buy that are designed to freshen a dog’s breath. Some of them work quite well. They can contain enzymes that help clean your dog’s teeth and aromatics to mask their breath. However, these are no substitutes for brushing the teeth.
Related: Best Dog Breath Fresheners.
If you decide to try this route, just be careful about the ingredients and only get the products from a trusted source.
#8 Herbal Remedies
Another way to treat bad breath in dogs (without the suspicious chemicals) could be using natural herbal remedies. However, just because something comes from nature doesn’t mean it’s good for your dog, so one should be helpful here. Many herbs have antibacterial properties, but some of them can also be too strong or unsuitable for your dog.
However, some herbal remedies are safe and seem to work. For example, Greg Tilford, the author of multiple books on botanical medicine for pets, recommends an easy herbal mix for dealing with bad breath in dogs:
“For freshening breath and improving digestion, I like using a combination of ginger root, parsley leaf, peppermint, fennel, and chamomile. This formula [...] will help maintain healthy balances in the mouth – and relieve flatulence, too!” - Gregory L. Tilford, Whole Dog Journal (3)
As another example, one study conducted in 2015 tested the effectiveness of a natural supplement for treating halitosis in dogs (which is often the cause of bad breath). The supplement in question contained propolis, sage, orange extract, thyme, and blackcurrant. And it was effective, at least according to the results of this study (4).
My Final Thoughts
Dealing with bad breath in dogs is not always easy. There are about a million answers to the question of how to freshen a dog’s breath, and each of them works for some dogs and not for others.
The key is trying out a couple of different things and finding what works for your pooch. And if the bad breath persists, make sure to check for underlying causes. Stinky breath in dogs is normal, to a certain degree, but if the smell appears suddenly and/or it’s overwhelmingly strong, it might be a sign of a deeper issue.
First, it’s important to understand that getting rid of a dog’s smelly breath might not be completely possible, especially using natural methods. This is because some stinkiness in a dog’s breath is normal. However, there are steps you can take. First, you’ll need to make sure your dog’s teeth are clean. Brushing their teeth or offering appropriate chew toys (or bones) can help with that. Then, make sure that the dog’s diet is well balanced and works for your pup. If none of this helps, then you can also try some herbal remedies like parsley and peppermint.
If your pooch resists having its teeth brushed (many do), or you simply can’t do that in every situation, there are easy remedies that can help. One of them could be offering a chew toy that is designed to help clean the dog’s teeth. This will work even better if combined with small amounts of doggie toothpaste. Dental treats can also help freshen your pup’s breath quickly.
It is a common belief that eating human food, wet food, or raw food can make a dog’s breath stink. Is that true? It could be, to an extent. Some dogs are simply a bit stinkier when they are fed certain foods. However, raw food or food made for humans that is appropriate for your dog should not cause your furry friend’s breath to be abnormally stinky, especially if you maintain good oral hygiene by brushing or using another method.
- Kerns, N. March 30, 2001. “Feeding Bones or Raw Foods to Puppies”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved April 19, 2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/puppies/puppy_food/feeding-bones-or-raw-foods-to-puppies
- Khuly, P. July 21, 2010. “Fresh Breath in a Bottle: Does It Work? Is It Worth It?”. PetMD. Retrieved April 19, 2022. https://www.petmd.com/blogs/fullyvetted/2010/july/bottled_breath-10254
- Tilford, G. November 11, 2003. “Your Dog's Bad Breath Can Signal Oral Health Problems”. Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved April 19, 2022. https://www.whole-dog-journal.com/health/your-dogs-bad-breath-can-signal-oral-health-problems/
- Di Cerbo, A., Pezzuto, F., Canello, S., Guidetti, G., & Palmieri, B. (2015). Therapeutic Effectiveness of a Dietary Supplement for Management of Halitosis in Dogs. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE, (101), e52717. https://doi.org/10.3791/52717