"My pet has bad breath."

Dog with bad breath

Halitosis, also called bad breath, is a very common reason why pet owners bring their pets in to see us at Franklin Vets. Common causes may be related to the mouth or, occasionally, related to other more systemic health problems.

What causes bad breath in pets?

The most common cause is periodontal disease. The unpleasant smell often results from bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria is attracted to the tooth surface within hours of cleaning the teeth. Within days, the plaque becomes mineralized producing calculus. Calculus is hard and needs to be removed from our pet’s teeth using an ultrasonic dental instrument.

As plaque progresses, gums can become inflamed (gingivitis) sore and sometimes even bleed. If left unchecked, other undesirable changes can occur such as bone loss from the jaw.

Other causes of bad breath include:

  • Endocrine (hormonal) diseases such as diabetes (“sweet” smell to the breath)
  • Organic diseases such as kidney disease
  • Gastrointestinal disease (some types of cancers, foreign bodies, constipation)
  • Skin disease (infections in the lip fold in some breeds of dogs commonly cause halitosis)
  • Dietary (eating fetid foodstuffs or eating stools - “coprophagia”)
  • Oral disease not involving the teeth and gums (cancerous growths)
  • Foreign bodies (bones, sticks, fishhooks) or trauma including electric cord injury

A veterinary examination is necessary to diagnose the specific cause of bad breath. If the reason is not obvious after looking in the mouth, blood tests will be taken to check for internal disease.

What to do if your pet has bad breath?

Periodontal disease is painful. Some dogs and cats will have problems chewing hard food, others will paw at their mouths. Unfortunately, most will not show any signs.

Regular check-ups with us are a great way to identify if there are any issues with your pet’s teeth or gums. If your pet has overwhelming bad breath, call our clinic to book an appointment. Vet nurse dental checks are free of charge.


This depends on the cause, but in most cases, it is treatable and professional teeth cleaning can often solve the problem. Occasionally tooth extraction is required.

Preventing bad breath

  • Good oral hygiene is the key - feed your pet a diet that is specially formulated to care for your pet’s dental health, like the Royal Canin dental biscuits.
  • You could also consider a dog or cat toothpaste and brush your pet’s teeth every day.
  • Dental chews - must be used every day to be effective.

Talk to us about the best option for your pet.


Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.