Dogs aren't known for their pleasant breath, and for good reason. Without the ability to brush and floss like people, bacteria can run amok and cause halitosis issues. However, bad breath might also be a sign of a medical problem, so always consult with your vet if your dog's breath suddenly changes for the worse or if you've never had his bad breath checked out.
Where the Stinkiness Comes From
In many cases, your dog's bad breath comes from the same place as your own -- bacteria buildup in the mouth. The bacteria forms plaque and tartar, keeping his breath consistently bad until the problem is corrected. It could also be something he ate, such as spicy human food, leading to temporary bad breath. In some dogs, however, the problem is more serious, including diabetes, kidney trouble or issues with his gastrointestinal tract.
What You Can Do
Your dog lacks the proper equipment to brush his teeth on his own, so it's up to you to make sure his teeth are clean. Brushing daily is best, using toothpaste designed specifically for dogs. This helps keep odor-causing bacteria to a minimum, hopefully relieving his bad-breath issues. Playing with your dog using teeth-cleaning products, such as knotted ropes and chew toys with raised bumps, also can help remove tartar buildup and improve his breath.
What He Eats
Several types of treats exist that help clean your dog's teeth and improve his breath. These are typically hard treats with ridges, lines or bumps that massage his gums and teeth while he chews. Adding more dry food to his diet also can help; the crunching helps remove tartar, while canned food does nothing to reduce bacteria. Keep him away from human food; commercial food is specially formulated for easy digestion in dogs, helping reduce bad breath by keeping food from sitting in the stomach.
Signs of Trouble
Masking your dog's breath with minty toothpaste and treats isn't a good idea -- it can hide the existing problems causing the bad breath. If his breath smells slightly sweet, for example, the problem could be diabetes rather than plaque buildup. Or, urine-tinge to his breath could signify kidney disease. If your dog consistently has a simple halitosis problem, there's probably no reason you can't treat the condition at home with brushing, toys, treats and the right dog food. However, pay attention to any changes in his breath; they could signify a need to get him examined by a vet, just in case.