Why Does My Puppy Have Bad Breath? What You Need to Know!

When are puppies not cute and irresistible? When they get up close to your face and start licking you, but they have such bad breath that it makes you recoil in disgust! 

If you are desperate to know the answer to the main question of this article – why does my puppy have bad breath? Keep reading, and we will explore the difference between normal puppy breath and a problem. 

We will look at the causes of bad breath in puppies, and also how to keep your puppy’s teeth clean.

  • What is “Puppy Breath” or “Milk Breath”?
  • Has my puppy eaten something awful to cause bad breath?
  • Does puppy food cause bad breath?
  • Does puppy teething cause bad breath?
  • Should I brush my puppy’s teeth?
sad puppy

What Is “Puppy Breath” Or “Milk Breath”?

Did you know that it is perfectly normal for a puppy to have something called “puppy breath” up until about 12 weeks old? 

Breeders are very familiar with this smell, but by the time a puppy leaves to go and live with their new family from 8 weeks onwards, the puppy breath smell has either started to fade away or has already disappeared. 

It has also been known for this distinctive puppy breath to stick around with some puppies up until about 6 months old.

“Puppy breath” or “milk breath” as it is sometimes referred to usually occurs when the puppy is very young and is associated with their diet, which consists entirely of their mother’s milk until they begin to be weaned off onto solid food. 

Since the smell can linger on even after the puppy has finished being nursed by the mother, veterinary dentists and experts suggest that the scent comes from the fact that the inside of a puppy’s mouth is clean and harbors none of the oral bacteria it will develop as it gets older. 

Another possible explanation for the smell is that a puppy’s GI tract contains different bacteria and flora than an adult dog’s. Therefore the odors that come up through the mouth are different.

You might be wondering what puppy breath smells like, and if this is the bad breath, you are experiencing with your puppy. Many people describe puppy breath as an inoffensive sweet kind of smell. 

Others who don’t particularly enjoy the smell may describe it as “heavy” or “sweet-sour.” 

If you are smelling something different coming from your puppy’s mouth, then it might not come by normal puppy breath, but instead a “sick puppy” breath, in which case you may have more cause for concern.

happy puppy

Has My Puppy Eaten Something Awful To Cause Bad Breath?

A common reason for a puppy to have distinctively lousy breath is that they may have eaten something awful. 

Similar to when a human eats something pungent, like foods containing garlic, for example, the odor can linger for a long time and be unpleasant for others to smell on someone’s breath.

It might be difficult to imagine what on earth your puppy has eaten that could cause such foul breath. Aside from their puppy food and any treats to your knowledge, they haven’t eaten anything that could cause bad breath. 

But you might be surprised what a puppy can get their paws on and their nose into when you’re not paying close attention.

One of the things that some puppies have a taste for is their feces. If your puppy has just finished feasting on their poo, then it is likely that this is what you can smell on their breath. 

Other puppies may be helping themselves to a platter of cat poo from a litter box if they have free access to it. 

If you let your puppy out in the garden unattended, there are all sorts of animal poo that your puppy could have access to. Fox poo is an example of a particularly foul-smelling variety of animal feces that dogs tend to be very interested in.

Aside from feces, your pup may have his nose in foul-smelling garbage or other rotting substances and leaves found on walks.

cleaning dogs teeth

Does Puppy Food Cause Bad Breathe?

In humans, our diet can often determine the odors we omit both from the skin on our bodies and the insides of our mouths. 

Heavily spiced or flavored foods may produce some unpleasant body odors, and the smells from the food itself can linger in our mouths too. Onions and garlic, in particular, can be extremely pungent.

It is understandable, therefore, to consider that their diet might cause your puppy’s bad breath. According to most vets, dog food isn’t generally the cause of bad breath in dogs or puppies. 

However, if the type of food you have chosen for your puppy isn’t agreeing with them, this could cause an issue that leads to bad breath.

Essentially the odor you may be identifying as bad breath is coming from the GI tract due to a sour stomach or undigested food. 

A good sign to look out for is excessive belching or passing gas, and vomiting or diarrhea. 

If your vet determines that the foul smell is related to indigestion, you may need to put your puppy on a bland diet for a couple of weeks.

Does Puppy Teething Cause Bad Breathe?

Teething is perhaps the most common cause of bad breath in puppies. This is a time where you are most likely to notice changes in your puppy’s breath.

Here is a breakdown of the puppy teething process:

  • Week 2-3 - By this time, the baby teeth have begun to erupt. These are also called deciduous teeth.

  • Week 5-6 – By this time, all 28 of a puppy’s baby teeth are present.

  • Weeks 12-16 – This is the time where a puppy’s baby teeth will begin to fall out.

  • 6 Months – By this time, all of the adult teeth will have come in.

The reason puppies can experience bad breath during teething is that the inflammation that occurs in the puppy’s mouth, which is caused by the teeth cutting through, carries an odor. 

Inflammation occurs when teeth have trouble cutting through the gums, sometimes a tooth may fracture, but most puppies will be chewing a lot of toys and treats during this phase, and this can cause the gums to become sore.

If you notice a metallic smell on your puppy’s breath, bleeding gums could very well be the cause of this.

Minor injuries that puppies experience with their teeth during teething aren’t usually something to worry about as the oral cavity is fast healing. A foul odor, however, could be caused by something getting lodged in an oral cavity, such as a bit of a toy or a stick.

It is sporadic for young puppies to develop an actual dental disease, as serious tooth issues take time to become established, and usually won’t be apparent until after the dog has passed about 3 years of age. 

It is essential to look after your puppy’s teeth in the meantime. Keep reading to find out how.

brushing dogs teeth

Should I Brush My Puppy’s Teeth?

Maintaining good oral health for your puppy is very important, especially when feeding your dog a commercial diet. 

It is a myth that kibble helps to “clean teeth.” A dog eating kibble is the equivalent of a human eating biscuit. 

Biscuits do nothing to clean our teeth. If anything, bits of a cookie is more likely to get stuck between our teeth and rot, causing our teeth damage.

The only way to keep your dog’s teeth clean is to clean them. There are several ways that you can do this. I would recommend that you use a mixture of these methods to make sure that your pup’s mouth remains healthy.

Here are the main ways you can keep a dog’s teeth clean:

1. Brush your dog’s teeth daily

It is crucial to get your puppy used to have their teeth cleaned as early as possible. You can buy toothbrushes specially designed to fit in your dog’s mouth. They usually come with two ends, one brush being smaller than the other, which is great for puppies or smaller dogs.

Alternatively, you can use a special silicone brush designed to fit on your finger so that you can quickly get your puppy used to have his teeth and gums massaged. Never use human toothpaste. Specially formulated dog toothpaste is available in yummy meat flavors that your puppy will enjoy.

You should aim to brush your dog’s teeth a few times a week, but daily is even better.

2. Provide healthy dog chews

Chewing is a vital component of your dog’s oral health. It helps to produce more saliva to dislodge food particles and keep your dog’s mouth in great shape.

There are some great specially designed dental chews for dogs and puppies with rubber bristles and ways to help remove tartar while the dog chews. When choosing chews for your puppy, go for one that is not too hard, and is the right size for its mouth. You can rub some doggie toothpaste on it to make it even more appealing.

3. Dental chews

These dog treats designed to help keep your dog’s mouth healthy. If you decide to give these to your dog, just be aware of the extra calories that you are adding to your dog’s diet, as there may be a healthier and more effective alternative to keeping your pup’s teeth clean.

4. Raw meaty bones

This is nature’s way of keeping the mouths of wild animals clean and healthy. You rarely see a fox or lion with teeth problems, and this is because of their raw meat diet.

The flesh acts as floss as it gets gnawed down into stringy pieces that cling onto the bone. And the bone itself wears down gradually, helping to scrape off any tartar. You don’t have to feed a fully raw diet for your dog to benefit from the natural teeth cleaning properties of raw meaty bones.

It isn’t advisable to offer very young puppies big hard bones to chew on because their puppy teeth are soft and can easily fracture, but you can start them off on chicken or duck wings under supervision.

5. Veterinary Oral Health Checks

The final option for keeping your dog’s teeth clean is to take them to the vet for teeth cleaning. If you can avoid this, it is better, though, because every time your dog gets his teeth cleaned, the vet will have to use an anesthetic to put the dog to sleep for the procedure, and with this, there come all of the usual associated risks.

It never hurts to get your vet to give your dog a quick oral health check if your dog allows them to look in their mouth, though. Your vet will be able to foresee any problems so that you can pay more attention to them.

For this reason, you should get your puppy used to having his mouth examined regularly from a young age.

dog with vet

Summary

The oral health of your dog is essential. Dogs rely on you to make sure that their teeth remain as clean and healthy as they can be.

You can avoid hefty vet bills and pain or discomfort for your dog by looking after your dog’s teeth from puppyhood.

So if you have noticed bad breath on your puppy, follow the advice in this article and carry on being vigilant. Your dog and your wallet will thank you for it in the long run!

why does my puppy have bad breath?
(Last Updated On: February 19, 2020)
Liz
 

I'm a self-employed blogger, life-long pet parent and lover of dogs and somehow manage to have time to pursue another of my passions - writing. I’m the primary contributor and editor of PUPPY FAQS. I love to write about the nutrition, health, and care of puppies. If you have a question that needs answering, please leave a comment below, and I will do my best to explain it.

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