If you once loved kisses from your pet but can no longer stand their bad breath, you may be wondering what’s causing the offensive odor. While some odor is normal, your pet’s breath should not smell so strong that you are almost knocked over. In some cases, bad breath may indicate a serious medical condition. Our team at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque gets up close and personal to investigate the causes of bad breath and offer advice on ensuring your pet’s mouth stays healthy and fresh. 

Bad breath in pets: The most common cause

The most common cause of pets’ bad breath (i.e., halitosis) is periodontal disease. Pet owners sometimes overlook their pet’s dental health and are surprised to learn that by the age of 3, up to 90% of dogs and cats have some degree of dental disease.

Almost immediately after your pet eats, the bacteria from food left on their teeth form sticky plaque, which hardens into tartar, trapping oral bacteria in and around the gum line and tooth roots. Without preventive care or treatment, dental disease can lead to loose teeth and infection, and significant pain for your pet. In severe cases, circulating bacteria enter the bloodstream, and permanently damage organs, including the kidneys, liver, and heart muscle. Unfortunately, the first signs of dental disease in pets are easy to miss, making regular inspection of your pet’s teeth all the more important. In addition to bad breath, the following signs may indicate dental problems:

  • Brown or yellow tartar buildup on the teeth
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Decreased appetite
  • Swallowing food whole rather than chewing
  • Leaving broken crumbs around their food bowl
  • Taking food from their bowl to eat elsewhere
  • Blood in their water bowl or on their toys
  • Shying away from being touched near their face

Additional causes of bad breath in pets

If your pet has bad breath, you should first schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, because although dental problems are the most common cause, bad breath may indicate other serious conditions, such as:

  • Foreign body — Most pets explore their world with their mouths, and those who have a tendency to chew—and swallow—anything they find are at risk of a foreign object becoming stuck in their mouth and causing an unpleasant odor. Cloth materials can get stuck between the teeth, while firmer material or objects can lodge in the roof of the mouth, under the tongue, or in the cheek—and all can be difficult to see. If your pet has ingested a foreign body, they may lose their appetite and vomit, in addition to their bad breath. 
  • Liver disease —If your pet is suffering from liver disease, the reduced liver function may cause bad breath, vomiting, jaundice (i.e., yellowing of the corneas and gums), and decreased appetite. 
  • Kidney disease — A pet’s kidneys that are not functioning properly do not filter toxins and waste materials, which then build up in their body, resulting in bad breath. Other kidney disease signs include lethargy, decreased appetite, and increased drinking and urination.
  • Diabetes — Diabetes can cause breath that has a sweet or fruity smell. Your pet likely will drink more and urinate more frequently. 
  • Coprophagia — Coprophagia refers to eating feces—their own or another pet’s—an unsavory habit of some pets that is not generally life-threatening, but can lead to serious problems caused by internal parasites. 

Preventing bad breath in pets 

Preventing bad breath is a win for you and your pet. You can enjoy your daily kisses—no need to plug your nose—and your pet stays healthy and happy. The following recommendations can help keep your pet’s breath fresh and their mouth clean:

  • Schedule regular wellness examinations — Adult pets should be evaluated by a veterinary professional once a year. These visits involve a thorough physical exam, screening blood work and urinalysis, and testing for parasites. 
  • Schedule regular professional veterinary dental cleanings — Regular professional veterinary dental cleanings are necessary to treat and prevent dental disease in pets. These procedures must be performed by a veterinary team while your pet is anesthetized to prevent stress and injury, and to allow our team to thoroughly examine and adequately clean your pet’s mouth.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth — Daily toothbrushing is important to remove damaging bacteria and plaque before it hardens into tartar. Ensure you use pet-friendly products, preferably approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), since human dental products can be dangerous for pets.

If your pet’s breath no longer smells fresh and clean, and you’re concerned about the cause, or would like to know how that can be prevented, contact our team at Neighborhood Veterinary Centers of La Marque to schedule an appointment. We can put a stop to your pet’s bad breath and you can go back to kissing on the couch.