Your hound’s chronic halitosis is most likely caused by dental or gum disease. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that more than 85 percent of dogs older than 4 develop gum disease.

Gum or periodontal disease begins after your dog eats. The bacteria in his mouth combine with food particles and form plaque on his teeth. After a few days, the plaque hardens into tartar, which irritates and creates pockets in your dog’s gums. Bacteria build up in these pockets, infecting your dog’s gums and causing the foul odor.

To determine if your dog may have gum disease, you can gently examine his mouth for the following signs:

  • Reddened, swollen gums
  • Yellowish-brown tartar build up
  • Broken or chipped teeth

Halitosis can also be caused by problems in your dog’s respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract or other organs.

These are some of the more common causes of bad breath, according to

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding your dog’s teeth)
  • Abscessed tooth
  • Bone or foreign object stuck in mouth
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Mouth tumors
  • Lung diseases, such as lung cancer
  • Severe kidney disease

If your dog shows any of the following symptoms, you should take him to the vet:

  • Oral discharge
  • Pain or sensitivity in his mouth
  • Bleeding from his mouth
  • Sudden drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty eating
  • Depression

You should also take your dog to the vet if his breath has any of the following distinct odors:

Sweet or fruity – This could indicate diabetes, especially if your dog has been drinking more water and urinating more frequently than usual.

Urine – This could indicate kidney disease.

Unusually foul, and your dog is vomiting, not eating and has yellow-tinged corneas and/or gums – This can be a sign of a liver problem.

To determine the cause of the halitosis, your vet will likely examine your dog’s mouth to check for gum or periodontal disease. This may require a brief anesthetic. X-rays of your dog’s mouth may also be taken.

If the cause is plaque, your vet will probably recommend that your dog’s teeth be professionally cleaned. If it is a diet problem, you may have to change what you feed him.

Preventing Your Dog’s Bad Breath

You can help keep your dog’s breath smooching sweet by taking the following steps:

Brush your dog’s teeth – It may sound a little bizarre, but regularly brushing your pooch’s teeth will not only keep his breath fresh, but may prevent gum disease and even heart problems. Pet stores sell toothbrushes and toothpaste specifically for dogs.

Chew toys – Some dental chew toys are designed to help reduce plaque.

Dog breath mints – Altoids for Airedales? Not yet, but some companies make mint-flavored or otherwise breath-freshening dog biscuits and treats.

Green tea – A recent study found that the flouride in green tea helps prevent glucosyltransferase, a disease that encourages the formation of plaque and bacteria.

Keep your dog out of the litter box – If you have a cat, make sure your dog can’t access the litter box. Some dogs find the flavor of cat feces irresistible.

Keep hair trimmed around his muzzle – Make sure your dog’s fur isn’t curling into his mouth. Food particles can get stuck in the fur and begin to rot.

Watch what your dog eats – Certain foods, such as lamb and canned fish, can make bad breath worse. Check with your vet about feeding your dog a special diet. Also keep an eye on your pooch to make sure he doesn’t chomp down non-foods such as plants and soil, which can make his breath stinky.