A closer look: Bad Breath (Halitosis) in Dogs
Halitosis is a common symptom in dogs with potentially serious underlying disease. While all dogs may have periods of bad breath it is not considered normal, or an age related change.
Many cases of halitosis are mild, treatable, and carry a good prognosis, such as mild gingivitis. Other cases are triggered by severe underlying disease such as kidney failure and carry a poorer prognosis.
Halitosis in dogs always warrants prompt veterinary attention.
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There are numerous causes of halitosis in dogs which are divided into broad categories: diseases within the mouth, diseases around the mouth, and systemic disease.
Disease within the mouth include alterations to the tissue of the mouth such as trauma, oral foreign bodies, or tumors.
Halitosis may also be associated with foul odors in the hair around the mouth such as after eating feces or licking anal glands.
Halitosis varies significantly in severity. Cases may be sudden in onset such as a ruptured dental abscess or infection associated with recent oral trauma. Other causes of halitosis are chronic, and due to underlying diseases such as progressive periodontal disease, a slow growing oral tumor, or kidney disease. Some forms of halitosis are persistent such as gum infection whereas diabetic dogs may experience periods of halitosis when the diabetes is poorly controlled which resolves when the condition comes back under control.
Testing and diagnosis
Diagnosis of halitosis includes
- Physical examination
- Oral examination (which may require sedation)
- Blood work
- Urine testing
Treatment options vary significantly depending on the underlying cause. Options include:
- Antibiotics or antimicrobial mouthwashes to restore a normal microbial population in the mouth
- Medical management of kidney and liver disease
- Treatment of diabetes mellitus
- Surgical management of periodontal disease including removal of plaque and extraction of diseased teeth
- Surgical excision of the lip folds to reduce lip fold infection
Puppies sometimes have bad breath as a result of normal development of the microbial population in the mouth. This is self limiting and does not require treatment.
Systemic disease presents alongside many different symptoms.