My dog has bad breath. What can I do?

Halitosis (foul-smelling breath) can occur for a number of reasons in older dogs. Kidney failure causes a buildup of ammonia in a dog’s bloodstream, resulting in breath with a sharp odor. Tumors in the mouth can also become gangrenous and begin to have an odor.

Usually bad breath is from tooth and gum disease, a painful and common health problem of older dogs. The first step in dealing with dental disease in an older dog is to take the dog for a veterinary examination. Your veterinarian will determine the severity of the disease and whether any teeth need to be extracted. Severe dental disease must be treated by anesthetizing the dog and thoroughly cleaning the teeth above and below the gum line with an sonic scraper, just like your dentist may use on your teeth.

While your dog is anesthetized, the veterinarian will perform an even more thorough examination, looking for any broken or badly diseased teeth, which may need to be removed. The teeth are then polished and treated with fluoride.

Antibiotics and other medications may be prescribed before or after the procedure to limit the spread of bacteria to the rest of your dog’s body and to speed healing. Once your dog’s teeth are clean, ask your veterinarian to suggest a home dental care program that will keep them clean and healthy and lessen the need for future professional cleaning.