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Sometimes it’s not teeth – other causes of bad breath in pets.

What can cause bad breath?

Bad breath, or halitosis, is very common in dogs and cats; however, there are a wide range of possible causes. Some are simple to treat; others less so – but bad breath is almost always symptoms of an underlying problem.

There is one, harmless cause of halitosis – eating something rotten or smelly (much more common in dogs than cats)! Some dogs love eating faeces or rotting food; this may be habit, or greed – but in a small percentage of cases is due to a condition called pica. This is when the animal will eat pretty much anything, whether or not it is actually food-like, and may be due to mineral or vitamin deficiencies or certain brain diseases. In most cases, however, eating rotting or smelly things isn’t due to a disease condition (although it may well lead to a nasty episode of vomiting and diarrhoea!).

Metabolic diseases can also cause bad breath – especially diabetes and kidney failure. These conditions are both associated with changes in urination and drinking, and often weight loss. If untreated, both are potentially fatal. In diabetes, the breath may smell sweet (because of the excess sugar in the bloodstream); sour (because of increased bacterial growth, as the bacteria feed on the sugar); or musty (as yeasts grow in the mouth). In kidney failure, the breath may smell metallic (due to a build-up of toxins and waste products that the kidneys aren’t filtering).

Diseases of the respiratory tract such as sinusitis, nasal infections, and nasal tumours may also lead to bad breath…

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Ask a vet online-‘I have an 8 year old Maltipoo who has had teeth and gum problems for the last 4 years.’

Question from Mary Collins O’Hara:

I have an 8year old Maltipoo who has had teeth and gum problem for the last 4years. He had 8teeth pulled, including some teeth on the bottom front, so now he drools all the time and he has the worst breath. I have done several rounds of antibiotics, I brush his teeth but his gums are so tender, he cries. I don’t know what else to do. Please help.

Answer by Shanika Winters

Hi Mary and thank you for your question regarding your dog’s ongoing mouth problem. An adult dog usually has 42 teeth which are made up of four different types:

12 Incisors which are for nibbling

4 Canines which are for grabbing and puncturing

16 Premolars which are for cutting and shearing

10 Molars which in theory are for grinding up food

Most dogs over the age of 3 years have some form of dental disease, this may be as mild as inflamed gums (gingivitis) and plaque through to infected tooth roots with gum recession. Along with the functions listed above the teeth help hold the dogs tongue inside its mouth and keep the shape of its mouth by holding the cheek flaps out. Many dogs cope extremely well after major extractions where they are only left with a few healthy teeth.

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