Health & Medical

Ask a Vet: What’s Causing My Dog’s Bad Breath?

What's Causing My Dog's Bad Breath? | Vanillapup

Is your dog suffering from bad breath? Besides daily toothbrushing, she should also receive an oral examination as part of the annual health assessment.

Q. What could be causing my dog’s bad breath? Brushing his teeth only temporarily solves the problem.

There are several different causes of bad breath, also known as halitosis, and periodontal disease is the most common. It happens when plaque and tartar build up on teeth and gums causing inflammation and infection.

Studies show that 80% of dogs and cats aged 3 years and above have periodontal disease.

Daily brushing is ideal to keep your dog’s teeth as clean as possible. However, plaque and tartar can still build up on teeth surfaces that are not accessible by brushing, and also under the gum line where the tooth roots are.

Oral health assessment

All dogs should receive an oral examination as part of their annual health assessment.

Once there is even mild dental tartar, your vet should perform a thorough dental COHAT (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Therapy) under anaesthesia. It is important to do that while the periodontal disease is still reversible.

It is also crucial to know that COHAT is the only safe way to examine all your dog’s teeth thoroughly.

The procedure involves:

  • a visual exam
  • mouth dental x-rays
  • scaling and polishing of the teeth

The first two points are to assess the internal teeth structures and tooth roots beneath the gums for any signs of periodontal and endodontic disease. After which, your vet will remove plaque and tartar, as well as treat any diseased teeth.

An oral examination is like our semi-annual visits to the dentist on top of our daily toothbrushing for maintenance.

Other causes

Other less common causes of bad breath include:

  • gastrointestinal disease
  • metabolic disease, such as kidney disease where toxins build up in the blood, which can cause specific mouth odours

Please seek further assessment and advice from your vet for the likely causes and recommended therapy for your dog’s bad breath.


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Dr. Brian Loon
Principal Veterinary Surgeon at Amber Vet
BSc. BVMS (Hons) (Murdoch), Certificate Veterinary Acupuncture (IVAS)

Dr. Brian Loon graduated from Murdoch University, Western Australia in 2007 and has since been practising as a small animal veterinarian in Singapore. His areas of special interest include diagnostic ultrasonography, endoscopy, and minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery (laparoscopy).

He is also certified in Veterinary Acupuncture with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS) and a certified and registered member of PennHIP, an internationally known modality for diagnosing hip dysplasia in cats and dogs.
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