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While many pet owners are familiar with the dreaded “wet dog smell,” puppies actually tend to smell really good!
A big part of this is puppy breath, which tends to be sweet and pleasant, while older dogs tend to have dog food breath that can often be worsened by health issues like tooth decay.
Why do puppies have such good-smelling breath, and when will it start to change into the typical adult dog breath?
Read on to find out, plus top tips for keeping your dog’s breath smelling good for their entire life!
Spoiler alert! You can expect puppy breath to hang around for around six months, depending on a variety of factors.
This is mainly related to their growth and life stage, so there isn’t much you can do to get that smell to hang around.
Fortunately, growing up doesn’t necessarily mean bad dog breath if you commit to proper dental hygiene.
Why Does Puppy Breath Smell Good?
Vet’s aren’t 100% sure why puppies seem to have such sweet-smelling, oddly pleasant breath. It doesn’t seem to be down to their diets, as all puppies seem to have the same sweet breath despite eating very different kinds of food.
However, the six to eight weeks they spend drinking mother’s milk is believed to be a major contributing factor.
Mother’s milk is sweet-smelling, and it is a very clean source of nutrients for your young dog. Still, this can’t be the only factor involved, since puppies stop drinking mother’s milk well before they develop dog breath.
Another likely factor is that mother’s milk is an important source of gut bacteria for new puppies and forms the basis for their future digestive health.
The work of this bacteria in its new digestive home can contribute to the smell of your puppy’s breath.
The esophagi of young dogs are still developing and don’t trap stomach gases in the stomach in the same way an adult dog’s would.
Digestive enzymes can make their way back up the esophagus and have an impact on how your puppy’s breath smells.
The other most important factor is probably their teeth. Young puppies start to develop baby teeth at around two or three weeks old, and they are generally all in by about six weeks.
These razor-sharp chompers are temporary, and they will usually be completely replaced by an adult set at sometime between four and eight months. This is also around the time that a puppy’s breath changes.
It could be that puppies have good dental hygiene since they have a limited diet, and their teeth are falling out and being renewed before they can build up plaque and tartar.
You don’t tend to see many puppy baby teeth because it is completely normal for your dog to swallow them.
Adult teeth generally accompany a change in diet to more solid foods, and damage to the teeth is permanent. This is likely another major contributing factor when it comes to dog breath.
What Can Make Puppy Breath Smell Bad?
Not everyone likes the smell of puppy breath. As with most things, it depends on personal preference. In general, though, puppy breath should certainly be sweet.
If your young dog does seem to have very bad breath, or their breath suddenly changes, this can be a sign that something is wrong.
If you notice your puppy has bad breath, take a quick look in their mouth to see if there is anything that shouldn’t be there.
If your dog doesn’t seem to be in any distress, pain, or discomfort, you can also simply wait a few hours to see if it goes away on its own.
If your puppy has been eating things they shouldn’t, this can affect their breath. For example, if they have sampled a small amount of poo, it might hang around for a bit.
But even something less offensive smelling, like something difficult to digest, could affect their breath for a while as their stomach enzymes work hard to break it down.
If their breath doesn’t improve after a few hours, it is time to consider other possible sources and solutions to the issue.
Treating Bad Breath In Puppies
As I briefly touched on above, the first and most common cause of bad breath in puppies is dental problems.
For example, if something has lodged in their gums or they have cracked a tooth, the way the mouth responds while healing itself can cause a bad smell.
It will probably also be accompanied by other symptoms, such as drooling and indications of pain. Retaining baby teeth that are blocking adult teeth coming through can cause similar problems.
If you can’t identify a foreign body in the mouth, it is worth taking a trip to the vet for a full examination and an extraction if necessary.
Another problem could be something they ate, since the smell of their stomach enzymes is stronger than for adult dogs.
Again, there may be other signs, such as a loss of appetite, swelling around the stomach, and signs of pain.
If this doesn’t resolve itself with some interesting bathroom antics, again, it is time to visit the vet and see if they can identify the problem.
Generally speaking, the key to identifying if something is going on with your dog is change. Changes in their habits, behavior, appearance, and smell can all be clear signs that something isn’t right.
This can be harder to determine with puppies than adult dogs since they change so quickly, but you should always be monitoring your dog for changes.
About Adult Dog Breath
Puppy breath has a lot to do with your dog’s growing process, so there isn’t really anything that you can do to make it hang around for longer than six months.
However, just because your dog is no longer a puppy doesn’t mean they have to have bad breath.
Most dog owners agree that adult dogs have pretty foul-smelling breath, but then again, many pet parents don’t pay enough attention to dental hygiene.
Vets actually recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth daily, but this is something that very few people do because dogs don’t tend to like it.
While dental chews can help keep your dog’s teeth cleaner than they would be otherwise, they aren’t really a replacement for brushing.
Knowing that most owners won’t be able to brush their dog’s teeth every day, vets recommend brushing a minimum of twice a week.
To accomplish this and stick to the habit long-term, the best thing you can do is start brushing your dog’s teeth when they are young so they learn to tolerate it, even if they never enjoy it.
If you aren’t sure how to clean your dog’s teeth, read our guide to maintaining your dog’s dental hygiene here.
Your dog should also be having a regular dental check up and cleaning at least once a year (or more often if they have ongoing issues with their teeth or with bad breath).
Again, if your dog suddenly develops bad breath, and not just the lingering breath of dog food, then this could be a sign that there is something wrong.
Again, the most likely culprit is something lodged in their mouth or dental issues. Drooling, loss of appetite, and signs of pain tend to be accompanying symptoms.
Again, if you can’t identify the problem, it is time for a trip to the vet.
Other causes of bad breath in adult dogs in particular are respiratory problems and gastroenterological diseases.
If you take your dog to the vet and they can’t identify something topical, they will probably test for these issues.
Other Puppy Smells And Hygiene Tips
It is generally a good thing that puppies have a pleasant smell about their breath, as it can mask other odors, and you should not bathe a puppy until they are at least eight weeks old.
Before this time, they are unable to regulate their body temperature.
As thoroughly as you dry them, the water that evaporates off their skin after bathing can cause their temperature to drop quickly and dangerously, resulting in hypothermia.
If they are with their mother, a puppy will probably receive regular licking baths.
Otherwise, it can be a trying eight weeks as puppies drag themselves through their food, roll around in their own waste, and generally explore the world with no concern for getting dirty.
If your puppy manages to get dirty enough to need a bath during this time, the best thing you can do is wipe them down with a slightly damp cloth.
Once your dog is eight weeks old, you can start bathing them, but still use lukewarm rather than cold water and make sure to dry them as thoroughly as possible.
While you might be tempted to bathe your dog all the time to keep them squeaky clean and fresh-smelling, this is actually not good for their coat or their immune system.
As a rule, you should bathe them as little as you can stand, and certainly no more than once a month. Regular brushing and perhaps the occasional rinse can be used between washes.
Additionally, avoid shampoos that are scented, as the majority of dogs don’t like having a foreign scent hanging around their bodies.
You will know if they don’t like it, as you will catch them rubbing up against everything after a bath. This is an attempt to rub the scent off.
FAQs About Puppy Breath
How do you get rid of puppy breath?
If you aren’t a fan of sweet puppy breath, there isn’t much you can do except wait it out. You can start brushing your puppy’s teeth regularly if you find a toothpaste that you prefer the smell of.
Just remember that dog toothpastes rarely smell minty fresh, as they are designed to appeal to dogs.
But don’t worry; this is something they will grow out of relatively quickly at around six months of age.
How long do puppies have bad breath?
Puppy breath will usually start to go away around the time that their adult teeth come through, which can be anywhere between four and eight months in age.
Exactly how long it will take depends on the breed of dog.
What does puppy breath smell like?
Many people liken the smell of puppy breath to sweet mother’s milk. It can also smell like skimmed milk or sweet cheese.
Is stinky puppy breath normal?
You will probably always notice your dog’s breath has a distinct smell. Unlike humans, they aren’t bothered by it and won’t brush their teeth or pop a chewing gum.
Most puppies have sweet-smelling breath that many people find quite pleasant.
However, if their breath changes and takes on a metallic smell or just a new smell in general, this can be a sign that something is wrong. If it persists for more than 24 hours, it’s best to visit the vet.
Why does my puppy’s breath smell like fish?
If your puppy’s breath takes on an unusual fishy smell, this is often a sign of tooth cavities or abscesses in the mouth. They will need a trip to the vet.
Baby teeth can be removed with little trouble since adult teeth will grow in their place.
If it is a new adult tooth that has developed a problem, it is worth considering what in their environment is causing their teeth to develop problems so early in life.
Do worms cause puppy breath?
Some people claim worms contribute to puppy breath. The logic behind this assumption is that puppies often acquire roundworms from mother’s milk, so they have puppy breath and roundworms at the same time.
But most puppies, whether they have worms or not, have puppy breath, suggesting there actually is no connection.
Do puppies make your house smell?
Yes, dogs impregnate their space with their smell. They sweat through their paws and their fur, and this leaves behind a lingering scent.
Since they are always leaving their scent behind, their living space is likely to have a slight odor of puppy no matter how clean they are.
This smell doesn’t really go away, but most pet owners do get used to it. Still, people who don’t own dogs may notice the smell when they come to visit.
What do puppy teeth look like when they come out?
Puppy teeth rarely fall out whole, but rather in parts, so if you find them, they may look like grains of rice. But you probably won’t find as many as you anticipate, as puppies often swallow their teeth as they fall out.
Can you give milk to puppies?
While puppies love mother’s milk, they should not be given your milk from the fridge. Most dogs are lactose intolerant, and drinking this kind of milk can seriously upset their digestive system.
If they do not have access to mother’s milk, you should feed them a special milk replacement formula for dogs.
New puppies are the best! They are so cute, curious, and playful. Unlike many older dogs, they also tend to smell good!
A big factor in this nice puppy smell – which appeals to many people but not everyone – is puppy breath.
Unlike adult dogs, whose breath tends to smell like dog food, puppies have a sweet breath that smells like mother’s milk.
Vets aren’t actually sure exactly why this is. One of the most common factors pointed to is their diet of mother’s milk, but the breath can hang around for months after they are on solids.
Another possibility is the bacteria related to the baby teeth and their process of growing in and then being replaced.
This seems likely since puppy breath seems to disappear at around six months–the same time that a dog will have their full set of adult teeth. Alternatively, their unique stomach acids could also be the culprit.
Whatever the cause, it is a natural phenomenon and will last until around six months of age, at which point they will develop typical adult dog breath.
Remember, dogs don’t have to have bad breath! To recap, here are some general hygiene tips to keep your dog’s mouth healthy and smelling great–or at least not awful.
- Brush your dog’s teeth daily or at least biweekly
- Add dental chews to your dog’s diet
- See your vet regularly–get check-ups often during the first year of your dog’s life
- Feed your dog high-quality, nutritious food
- Avoid letting your dog eat things they shouldn’t, like poo or food scraps
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