My dog has bad breath. What is the cause and treatment?

Original Question: KC retired from the track in July 2017. We adopted him in October 2017. He's always had bad breath. I thought it would go away but it hasn't. He's on the same food as his greyhound brother who's 7 and has the same tartar buster knuckle bones that keep their teeth good (for greyhounds). Thoughts? - Heather

My dog has bad breath. What is the cause and treatment? Jun 22, 2018

Hi Heather,

I’m sorry you’re dealing with this but I do like the question. It proves something I have been telling clients for a long time. Every dog is unique and some get dental disease at a more serious rate than others, even if they are related.

Canine dental disease is extremely common and if you already know your dog has bad breath, there is going to be some level of tartar accumulation that is present. A less likely but more serious reason for bad breath could be due to a tooth root abscess, trauma in the mouth, a tumor, or a foreign body lodged in the tissue. Dental disease is vastly more likely and this list of alternatives is extremely rare especially given that there are no other symptoms that you mention.

I would suggest you go for that consultation and have the veterinarian perform a thorough oral exam and then give you a quote for any treatment that is recommended. This typically isn’t inexpensive but keep in mind that it can significantly improve the current and future health of this dog. You can always visit another veterinarian for a second opinion and other options to address the problem. The money won’t be missed in the future while the health benefits will continue to pay off.

Once a dental cleaning is performed, I recommend that you speak to your veterinarian about a plan to prevent, or more realistically, slow down the process of tartar accumulation, gingivitis and dental disease. By far the best is brushing the teeth and I recommend you have the veterinarian or a registered veterinary technician at the clinic demonstrate this to you. Here we have a video tutorial that demonstrates how to brush a dog’s teeth which I encourage you to take a look.

Less effective than brushing is using a medical dental diet dog food that will scrape the teeth during chewing and reduce the bacterial load in the mouth. Other items like water supplements, dental treats and chew toys meant to clean the teeth are in my humble opinion, close to useless. They can certainly make up a dental program but compared to brushing and a dental diet, they really don’t provide much more value. If these things did work we’d be taking them on our way to work. Teeth are the same in us as in our pets.

Aside from the specific conditions mentioned, I would recommend you perform general wellness blood and urine testing. This could alert you to any underlying conditions that may need to be addressed in the future.

Good luck!

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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My dog has bad breath. What is the cause and treatment?
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My dog has bad breath. What is the cause and treatment?
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Canine dental disease is extremely common and if you already know your dog has bad breath, there's going to be some level of tartar accumulation present. A less likely but more serious reason for bad breath could be due to a tooth root abscess, trauma in the mouth, a tumor, or a foreign body lodged in the tissue.
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Healthcare for Pets
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