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Why do dogs have bad breath?

Why do dogs have bad breath?

5 steps to healthy breath and a longer life for your dog

Living with dogs is fun! Their presence usually makes us feel happy and alive. In fact, dogs are considered one of the most potent cures for feeling blue and depression.

However, living with dogs has some drawbacks and one of them can be bad breath. Over the years, I have witnessed many dogs with breath so strong that it would keel over a logger. I can still remember the pungent smell of rotten teeth and gums of many unfortunate dogs because their loving, but unaware, people let their oral hygiene go too far. 

Most people assume that bad breath is mainly connected to tartar build-up and gum disease, but that is not exactly the whole picture. It is true that dental issues are frequently the cause of bad breath or halitosis, but your dog's less than fresh breath may also be a sign of metabolic imbalance, toxicity, poor digestion, an oral tumour or general disease.

The purpose of this article is to give you effective and practical points to make your dog's breath fresh again and prevent some serious problems that can reduce your dog's quality of life and life expectancy.

1. Oral health is the key

The main cause of dental disease is kibble. Carbohydrates, starches and even just the finely processed food itself adheres easily to the surface of teeth, feeding harmful bacteria that creates a thick layer of tartar. Gums initially become inflamed and infected and eventually recede, exposing and further eroding and damaging the bone and ligaments that hold your dog's teeth in place.

A conventional veterinary practitioner normally recommends a yearly dental cleaning under anesthesia, but I find such a regular intervention unnecessary if you follow these steps:

  1. Feed your dog a non-processed raw or cooked diet free of grain and starches
  2. Add the right RAW bones to your dog's diet, which I call the "nature's dental hygienist”. For more info on what bones to feed, click here.
  3. Ask your veterinarian to hand scale your dog's teeth or find a skilled dental hygienist that can do the same.

Some of my colleagues argue that this approach to dental care is not sufficient, but I have seen dogs in perfect dental health on this protocol. Plus, your dog does not need to go under anesthesia on a yearly basis. 


2. Diet recommendations

I am sure you have been in situations where someone starts talking to you and you immediately hope that the conversation will not last long. Bad breath, in cases where dogs or people have no dental problems, is usually a sign of toxicity and digestive metabolic disturbances and diet has a lot to do with it.

Processed and chemically preserved food, once again, is the leading cause of such problems, but an inappropriate natural diet may also play a role. Chemicals, preservatives and poor quality ingredients produced on polluted and depleted soils with heavy pesticide use are complex, making it difficult for us to be able to completely decipher the impact. There are simply too many factors playing a role and the only way to deal with food is to do our best

Based on my observations in practice, the safest and quickest ways to solve your dog's bad breath is to apply to follow these 4 steps.

1. Once again, feeding non-processed food is the key.

2. Whenever you can, support non-medicated and organic agriculture. It is good for you, your dog and also our planet.

3. Feed a raw or cooked diet, whichever you feel more comfortable with. If you are not familiar with wholesome non-processed diet feeding, you can register for the course here or use our Recipe Maker.

4. Feed a combination of meat, veggies and raw bones. Dogs that do have green leafy vegetables in their diet appear to have better breath, mainly because leafy greens have a cleansing and digestion balancing effect.

3. Toxicity

I mentioned in the section above that toxins such as preservatives, antibiotics and chemical pollutants play an important role in your dog's health and bad breath occurrence. Once again, I need to emphasize that due to the degree of toxin levels in the environment, our goal should be to minimize the use and consumption of chemicals. The simple rule you can apply is, 'if you don't know it, don't feed it.”

Here are some other foods you should avoid for toxicity reasons:

1. Rice due to the high presence of arsenic. More info here.

2. Large fish due to the presence of mercury. More info here.

3. Small fish, such as herring, sardines and similar fish due to the higher presence of strontium. More info here.

4. Beware of foods originating from countries with a reputation for poor quality control such as China. Remember some foods may be produced, but not made and packaged in China, and labeled for example as "Made in USA or Canada."

5. Learn how to choose safe treats. More info here.

6. Use only dog toys that are made of child safe materials and never buy Chinese dog toys.

To summarize, you goal should be to minimize toxins, and not try to reach the impossible task of eliminating all toxins. If you are interested in finding out what levels of toxicity your dog has, you can use inexpensive and highly accurate HairQ test. More info here

4. Nutritional deficiencies

There are not many people who would expect a carpenter to build a home without bricks, lumber other essential building blocks. There are not many drivers who would expect a car maker to build a car without brakes, doors, blinkers or even wheels. 

However, there are still many people who don't fully understand that good health can't be built without the essential building blocks that the body needs. I have written much about soil depletion and deficiencies. I have seen this area of healthcare being mostly forgotten, despite that it causes premature aging and losses.

My general sense is that most people understand that vitamins, probiotics and omega oils are needed, but they often forget about the most important part of nutrients and that is minerals and essential amino-acids. These are the 'bricks' of the body and unfortunately, the body can't make them on its own.

Intensive agriculture has depleted the presence of minerals in soils to a large degree. Based on the dramatic changes that many people see after supplementing minerals and essential amino-acids, their deficit may be one of the most common causes of disease.

5. Stomach dysfunctions

This cause of halitosis may often be forgotten, but is also important. The canine stomach closely relates to the spinal segment of the last thoracic and first lumbar vertebrae. When your dog gets injured in this region or is naturally weak, the muscle spasm leads to decreased blood, nerve and energy flow to the stomach, which can lead to digestive disturbances.

I have seen this repeatedly and such "energy stagnation" can be detected by simply pressing on both sides of the spine. If your dog reacts by moving, looking at your in discomfort or skin twitching, it may be that the stomach is also compromised. 

Some dogs are also genetically predisposed to a lack of stomach acid production, which can also cause bad breath.

Stomach function can be also seriously altered by the use of NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), which in some cases, leads to stomach ulceration. For more information click here.

As you can see, dental problems are not the only cause of bad breath. I purposely didn't mention one canine habit that has been encoded in dogs' DNA for thousands of years. Dogs are scavengers and love to eat rotten and very smelly food. If your dog eats feces of other dogs or other species, it may be a habit, but it also may be a sign of digestive imbalances and deficiencies.

To summarize, bad breath in dogs needs to be taken seriously. Dental disease can damage your dog's teeth and cause bacterial spread to the heart and kidneys, which can be very serious.

All cases of bad breath need to be seen as a systemic problem and addressed that way. 

5 steps to healthy breath and a longer life for your dog

  1. Look after your dog's teeth
  2. Detox your dog
  3. Feed a raw or cooked natural diet, including raw bones 
  4. Provide the essential nutrients
  5. Ensure that your dog's back is checked by an experienced chiropractor, physiotherapist or acupuncturist with good knowledge of the connections described above.

© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM

About the author

Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM is an Integrative veterinarian, nutritionist and creator of natural supplements for dogs and people. Helping you and your dog prevent disease, treat nutritional deficiencies, and enjoy happier, healthier, and longer lives together.

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