Common Reasons for Bad Dog Breath in Columbus, OH

The term “dog breath’ is well known, as any dog owner is more than familiar with their pet wanting to show affection by getting up close and personal, and dishing out big wet kisses. If your dog has particularly bad breath, you might want to consider the possible causes of halitosis, the official term for bad breath.

Reasons for bad dog breath in Columbus, OH

Sometimes brushing your dogs’ teeth may help, or offering dental chews and treats, but sometimes bad breath can be a sign that your dog may require a visit to your veterinarian in Columbus, OH.

10 Reasons Why Your Dog Has Bad Breath in Columbus, OH

Bad breath in dogs can be caused by a number of different factors, and it’s important to find out what the cause is so the proper treatment plan can be made and implemented.

Below are ten common reasons for bad dog breath:

Periodontal Disease

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

Periodontal disease is where plague and tartar build up around the base of the teeth, and cause a hard film to form in those areas. Dental plaque forms a film on the tooth, and when plaque becomes mineralized, it produces tartar and calculus that coats the tooth like cement, and causes gum inflammation. As tooth plaque progresses, it can lead to loose teeth, and allow the growth of harmful bacteria that can produce periodontal destruction.

In severe cases, tooth infection can penetrate the bones of the upper and lower jaw, causing tooth root abscesses, and infection of the bone (osteomyelitis). Dogs with severe periodontal and dental disease can become septic due to bacteria entering the bloodstream, as well as developing “vegetative endocarditis,” where bacteria enters the bloodstream and infiltrates the heart valves.

Renal Disease

Metabolic diseases like renal (kidney) disease or renal failure can also cause bad dog breath. Renal disease and dysfunction can make a dog’s breath smell a little like ammonia, because waste products and toxins are eliminated by normal kidney function, in kidney failure these waste products build up and cause the breath to have a distinct, metallic smell.


Diabetes, and diabetic ketoacidosis (a condition where there is not enough insulin in the body to control blood sugar levels), can also cause dogs in Columbus to have bad breath. Oftentimes, diabetic dogs can have sweet, sour, or fruity-smelling breath. Uncontrolled diabetic dogs can be immune compromised, so that the colonization of bacteria in the mouth can grow more rapidly as their immune system is weakened and unable to fight such bacterial growth.

A Toxic Substance

Any dog owner will tell you that dogs can and do tend to eat things that they shouldn’t, and unfortunately, each year thousands of dogs accidentally get into medications, or ingest life-threatening toxins such as rodenticide and antifreeze. Bad breath is not likely to be their only symptom, depending on the type of toxin.

The ingestion of toxins can cause your dog’s breath to smell strange, and if you suspect that your dog has ingested a toxic substance, call Poison Control and your veterinarian in Columbus immediately as it can be a veterinary emergency.

Foreign Substances

As mentioned above, dogs tend to eat things they probably shouldn’t, and unfortunately, dogs eat plenty of non-food items that can cause bad breath and adverse gastrointestinal effects such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Also, just about any veterinarian can tell you stories of their canine patients ingesting feces (known as coprophagia), dead things such as rodents, rotting food, kitchen garbage, or things known as “foreign bodies.”

Some common household foreign bodies that dogs tend to ingest include:

  • Bones
  • Fish hooks
  • Socks
  • Rocks
  • Diapers
  • Batteries
  • Decorative lights
  • Underwear

Inappropriate ingestion of any of the items listed above can get stuck in your dog’s mouth, teeth or stomach, contributing to your dog’s bad breath. If you suspect that your dog has ingested something potentially dangerous, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Again, bad breath is not likely to be their only clinical symptom.


Sometimes your dog’s food can contribute to bad breath. Some dry kibble and wet food diets, especially those that contain certain proteins or animal fats can contribute to halitosis.

If you suspect that your dog’s diet, or treats and chews are contributing to their less than fresh breath, contact your vet so that the both of you can explore the issue. There are several veterinary diets on the market that may be able to help.

Oral Tumors

Although periodontal and dental disease are the number one contributors to bad breath in your dog, oral tumors or growths are another potential cause, especially in older dogs.

Oral tumors can be fast-growing, and they tend to have a distinct, foul smell which is caused by bacteria taking over the tissues of the tumors, or the tumors increasing. Oral tumors or growths can vary in shape and size, and can appear anywhere in the oral cavity, so if you notice any masses, lumps or discolorations in your dog’s mouth, make an appointment with your vet in Columbus to have them examined.

Gastrointestinal Disease

Gastrointestinal disease can also cause bad dog breath. Vomiting due to gastritis or a foreign body blockage can also cause your dog’s breath to smell different, and a neurological disorder such as megaoesophagus (where the esophagus is dilated and food cannot normally reach the stomach) can also cause chronic vomiting and regurgitation, and as a result, bad breath.

Bad breath will be a symptom, but not the most obvious clinical symptom of GI illness.

Nasal Infections or Tumors

Bad breath in dogs can also be caused by nasal infections, sinusitis, nasal tumors and other respiratory track issues. Nasal infections as a result of sinusitis can cause the production of pus, and purulent discharge from from nose, which can tickle down to the back of the throat. This smell is the result of white blood cells that are dying and decomposing, resulting in a yellow or greenish discharge from the nasal cavity.

Anal Glands

Dogs and cats have two glands that are located on either side of the rectum. These glands are called anal glands, and in the wild, carnivores and other predators naturally express these glands each time they defecate. However, with domesticated dogs, sometimes these glands are not always expressed, and dog owners may notice that their dog will routinely clean the rectal area after defecating, and afterwards complain that their dog’s breath has a “fishy smell.”

If you notice that your dog is chronically licking the rectal area, make an appointment with your veterinarian in Columbus, since she may need an anal gland expression.

See a Vet for Your Dog’s Bad Breath in Columbus, OH

Whether your dog’s bad breath is caused by their diet or a potentially serious illness, it’s very important to get to the root of your dog’s condition so that they can receive the proper health and treatment.

At North Kenny Veterinary Hospital, our experienced veterinary staff is here to provide the care your dog needs for their bad breath. Whether your pet needs dog teeth cleaning services, or other treatment, our vets are here for you every step of the way, and will provide you with the best course of action to take to help with your dog’s breath and underlying heath concerns, if present.

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About North Kenny Veterinary Hospital

North Kenny Veterinary Hospital has been serving Columbus, OH pet families with exceptional veterinary medicine since the 1950s. We put a strong emphasis on preventive medicine as well as low-stress handling to help pets have a more pleasant veterinary experience. We use Fear Free techniques for every cat and dog to help reduce their anxiety and calm their nerves.

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