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Bad Breath

Pug Dog Bad Breath

Overview

While a dog's breath may not smell like roses, bad breath with Pugs is something to take note of. This problem can be in one of two categories: Acute (it comes and goes randomly and may have times of a slight bad odor or times of an intense smell that makes you turn your face) or chronic (it is an ongoing issue that never seems to resolve).

Since bad breath, otherwise known as halitosis, is not 'normal' for dogs and should be treated, this section will cover all of the important details that you should know.

We will discuss:
  • The top 7 reasons for halitosis
  • Home remedies - Ways to fix this from home
  • Helpful tips for helping keep your Pug's breath smelling fresh
The Top 7 Causes of Halitosis with Pug Dogs

1) A Dental Issue. This is definitely something that owners need to keep an eye on, since most brachycephalic (flat faced) breeds are prone to tooth issues, most significantly due to their teeth being very close together in a compacted skull shape.

Canines develop plaque and tarter on their teeth just like humans do. While chewing on toys helps just a bit, it is by no means enough to clean the teeth. Food particles stuck between teeth can begin to have a rotting smell and plaque can have a nasty smell just by itself. Though, in many cases, when plaque sits on the teeth for too long, it turns into what is then called tartar and it eats away at the enamel.

This can then lead to decay and infection. Dogs do not always immediately show signs of pain. There can be infection for some time before it reaches the root, which then causes moderate to severe pain that results in not eating, reluctance to chew, etc.
Pug in towel
Bittoo, 20 months old
Photo courtesy of Vishnoo Sangeet Dubey
Once a tooth is decaying or infected, it can cause quite noticeable bad breath. It is vital to have this ruled out as a cause of halitosis, since infection can travel up into the sinuses, which prevents a problem for brachycephalic breeds like the Pug. In some cases, it can even travel via the bloodstream to vital organs in the body such as the brain and heart, making it fatal if not treated.

How to fix this: Brushing your Pug's teeth at home is an important part of care. However, if a dog has a chronic case of bad breath you'll want to have this first looked at by a trusted veterinarian, since all the brushing and scrubbing in the world cannot heal an infection or reverse decay.

The vet will examine the teeth, and under sedation a 'full dental' will be performed which includes scraping off all of the tartar buildup and x-rays will be taken to look for any abscesses or spots of deterioration.    

Any issues will be treated (if a tooth is to blame, it can either be extracted or be given a root canal; many owners choose to have it removed if it will not interfere with the dog's bite set or present eating problems).
Once your Pug has a 'clean slate', if you maintain a strict cleaning schedule at home using the right products, the problem of infection and bad breath can often be prevented in the future. Ahead we will discuss proper cleaning products and methods. 
2) A stomach issue. If a Pug is having issues taking place in his stomach, this can lead to bad breath. The smell easily travels up the esophageal tube, which is the main passage that leads from the throat to the stomach. If a Pug has a lot of smelly burps, is not eating as much as normal, has a lot of gas and/or shows other signs of an upset stomach, this should be looked at. In some cases, a quick change to a new food can cause issues and for this reason a slow gradual changeover over the course of 3 to 4 weeks is recommended. In other cases, if Pug has eaten something that he should not have, this can cause temporary upset and bad breath that usually resolves within the day. Though of course, is he ingested something toxic, that would be an emergency situation that required immediate care.

How to fix this: If you've just changed your Pug's main food, and he is struggling with the new diet, you may want to mix in some of his old kibble and do a slower transition. Some Pugs eat much too quickly, which can cause issues; in minor cases it may cause a general upset and in serious instances, it can lead to killer bloat. Using a slow-feeder bowl can resolve this. 

If your Pug is burping a lot, has a lot of flatulence or has other signs of an upset stomach, it's best to have this diagnosed by a reputable veterinarian. Chronic issues can be caused by anything from parasites to partial stomach blockage. 
3) Teething. When Pug puppies have bad breath, this can often be linked to the teething process. When teeth are becoming loose, the mixture of a small amount of blood along with saliva can produce an odd smell that many equate to sour milk. Others describe this as a sort of sweet-sour smell. Luckily, this will fix itself once the teething process is complete.  

How to fix this: Regular brushings can help in two ways… 1. It will clear away the smell and if done each day, it will keep teething related halitosis at bay and 2. The bristles on the gums can offer temporary relief to a puppy that is experiencing intense itching; many Pug puppies enjoy having this done. 

4) Dog food. If your Pug has 'dog food breath', you're not alone in your struggles to deal with smelling dog food long after your dog has enjoyed a meal. In fact, the odor can even become worse as the day goes on. While this is very common, it is by no means normal and can be fixed.

The most common cause of this is the consistency of the food. Most Pugs that have bad breath due to food are being fed a dry kibble. Some brands (typically the inexpensive 2 or 3 star foods) have a chalky powder to the pieces. As a Pug chews this, that powdery substance mixes with saliva and forms a sort of thick paste. It's awfully hard for a dog to swallow this and therefore some of this sticky stuff ends up packed up behind teeth where it sits and begins to emit a smell. Essentially, the reason that the Pug's breath smells like dog food is because there is still some dog food in his mouth. Each time he exhales, a whiff of this unpleasant odor is let loose. 
How to fix this: Many times, a food is chosen simply because of name recognition. If you hear the name of a brand often enough, you may start to think 'it's so popular, it must be good!' In other cases, a vet may recommend a brand that is less than stellar. And finally, a poor quality food may be chosen because it is easy to obtain (at the supermarket, as opposed to ordering it, etc.).   
Pug puppy bad breath when teething
Gizmo, 10 weeks old
Photo courtesy of The Oliveira's Family 
This cause of bad breath can be easily fixed by switching over to a higher quality food. While we do recommend home cooking, we also recommend high quality brands such as Orijen and Whole Earth Farms. When choosing a food, know what its rating is. Foods are rated on a scale of 1 to 5 stars and one of at least 4 stars should be your goal.  
It can also help to encourage your Pug to drink water after eating. While his stomach may be full and you don’t want to fill him up too much past that point, just a few gulps of fresh, cold water can thin down any food residue enough that it can be swallowed, thus removing the smell. Pug dogs that are resistant to drinking enough often do best with water fountains, since the constant flow of the water makes it more enticing. 

Finally, as with most bad breath issues, a quick scrubbing with the right products can help. And we will touch on that coming up.
Mia, 4 months old
Photo courtesy of America 
5) Health issues.  There are certain health conditions that have bad breath as a symptom. Kidney issues can actually cause a dog's breath to smell like urine. Stomach or intestinal blockage can make a Pug's breath smell like feces and in some cases, poop can even be vomited out. Canine diabetes may cause chronic bad breath and in some instances it can smell very sweet and fruity. Infection in the lungs or sinus passages often causes bad breath as well.  

How to fix this: If any sort of health issue is suspected, getting your Pug to an experienced veterinarian should be the first priority. It is not uncommon for owners to delay this due to financial strains. For this reason, we do suggest having a fund just for emergency sick visits. Any amount that you can put away, whether it is $10 a month or $30, will help. Also, many vets will agree to a payment plan if a dog is suspected of being ill. 
6) Coprophagia.If your Pug's breath smells like poop, it may be just that. As mentioned above, the very serious issue of stomach blockage can cause a dog's breath to have the odor of feces, however eating poop (Coprophagia) can be the more simpler explanation. Coming to this conclusion can be a bit tricky if a owner does not see their Pug doing this. However, if a Pug is left home alone, he can have a bowel movement and ingest the evidence, leaving owners to have no clue. 
In other cases, if a Pug is being walked or allowed to play in the yard, while it may appear that he is sniffing the ground, he may be eating the feces of other dogs. 

How to fix this: Animal behaviorists and veterinarians alike have various ideas about why dogs do this. Lacking certain vitamins, minerals and nutrients is one popular theory. This may have some truth to it, since low-quality foods are often packed with fillers, which are empty ingredients that pass right though the body and are thought to leave a dog craving more…. And if food is not available, a dog may resort to ingesting feces… in many cases it may be that of a different dog, one that has eliminated food of a different brand. 

Another reason may be habit; though some theorize that a dog may eat his own poop to cover up the evidence of a housebreaking accident, it is more likely that a bored dog eats the poop and in doing so, it becomes a bad habit. 

When outside, keeping a close eye on your Pug is a must. Having him on a harness and not a collar, you can quickly move him away from the feces without injury to the neck, before he mouths it. Of course, never allow your Pug to roam the yard (even if it is fenced in) alone; he should always be supervised.

When indoors and having the issue of a Pug doing this when home alone, one effective method is to use a supplement that has no flavor when it goes in, but during the digestive process it adds a terrible taste to bowel movements on the way out. Some top rated products will also freshen a dog's breath. 
7) Foreign object. Dogs are incredibly curious by nature and for this reason, it is not uncommon for them to mouth things simply to discover what they are, even if eating it is not an intention. This, unfortunately, can lead to non-food objects being swallowed but also can lead to pieces of an object becoming lodged in the mouth or stuck between teeth. If this happens, the body will react by increasing salvia, which can lead to drooling and is oftentimes mixed with a small amount of blood due to tissue being pierced. The longer the object is stuck in the mouth, the more of a bad smell it will produce. In some cases, if it has been there for more than a day, infection can set in which can cause an even stronger case of bad breath.

How to fix this: It is best to have a look in the Pug's mouth by using a flashlight and with the assistance of a helper, since most dogs will not 'open up and say Ahhhh'. If you can spot the culprit, you'll have to make a judgement call as to whether it is feasible to remove it. Objects that are only stuck between teeth may be able to be removed by using a thin, dry washcloth and with two fingers on either side, doing a firm downward or upward sliding motion. Thick floss may also be used for some issues. In other cases of an object being stuck like a splinter, it is best to have a veterinarian handle this, since removal of the exposed portion may still leave pieces in the oral tissue. 
*** To see recommended products including effective canine toothpaste, quality toothbrushes & dental chews for better breath, look to 'Dental Care' in the Pug Dog Specialty Shoppe
Pug dog in cape
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Home Remedies for Pug Dog Bad Breath & Tips for Keeping Breath Smelling Fresh

1) Daily brushing - Ideally, you will want to brush your Pug's teeth at least once per day. This will help prevent bad breath as well as serve the very important role of helping prevent plaque buildup, decay and infection. With the right tools and products, this only takes 3 to 4 minutes and can save your Pug lots of future pain. It can play a huge role in how many teeth are retained when your Pug becomes a senior and can even extend his life span.
You only need 2 things:

1. A quality canine toothbrush - This is really important because a subpar brush will not have effective bristles needed for scrubbing off food residue and plaque, which is a sticky substance constantly being produce by the body. 3-sided brushes are great because they can clean all 3 exposed sides of the tooth at once. Look for a good brand that will stand up to daily use and one that is appropriately sized for your Pug. Most Pug puppies do best with one sized for toy breeds and adults (being the largest of all toys) often do best with those sized for small breeds. 

2. A quality paste - This is just as important. With cheap pastes, you may as well be using a toothbrush alone. A good canine toothpaste will serve several purposes. It will have effective abrasive elements that work to loosen debris and plaque. It will taste good so that a Pug is receptive to you doing this task. It will not contain fluoride (this is why human toothpaste should never be used; fluoride is toxic to dogs). And it will have ingredients to freshen a dog's breath in a natural way. 
2) Doggie dental chews - Some owners do not offer these, mistakenly thinking that it is not a true tasty snack and therefore their Pug will not enjoy them. However, there are several great dental chews for dogs that not only will be seen as a yummy treat, they are also formulated to help fix bad breath issues. Look for a brand that helps combat halitosis in 3 ways: It will have the right consistency to help loosen and remove plaque, it will have antiseptics that work to keep bacteria at bay and it will have natural bad breath remedy ingredients such as dill, mint and/or parsley. 
perfect Pug dog resting on sofa
Lilly, 14 weeks old
Photo courtesy of Nicola Franco (from Trinidad and Tobago)
3) Canine mouthwash - Don't worry on this one; you won't need to teach your Pug how to swirl and spit! When a dog has really bad breath, one effective treatment (when combined with regular at-home dental care) is to use canine mouthwash, which is actually a flavorless liquid that is added to water. You'll want to look for a quality brand that does not contain drying ingredients, since this can make halitosis worse. A good canine mouthwash will work by killing bacteria both in the bowl (though you will still want to wash it with hot water and soap at least once per week) and in the mouth. 
Pug puppy with upturned ear
Milo, 8 months old
Photo courtesy of Nicole Nelson
Also, this is a rather inexpensive solution, since you'll only need to use about 1 spoonful per full bowl of water; a good sized bottle can last quite a while.
4) Encourage chewing - Long gone are the myths that chewing alone is enough to keep teeth clean. However, when a Pug chews on toys throughout the day, it does two things: It loosens plaque to some degree, which makes brushing that much more effective and it increases the production of saliva, which is naturally conducive to removing bacteria and smell.

If your Pug doesn't seem all that interested in toys, this may be a matter of which type of toys are given to him. Dogs do best with lots of options. Various textures, colors and rewards (treat release, noises, movement, etc.) Look for quality toys that offer multiple textures, so that a Pug can choose what sort of chewing urge he wishes to satisfy and having a wide selection can help ensure that a dog will not get bored with few options.  

A Final Thought

While dogs may not have super fresh smelling breath (they just can't compete with humans that use breath mints and gum), it is not normal for a Pug to have very stinky breath and it is very reasonable for a Pug to have neutral smelling breath. With bad breath (enough to make you turn your head and raise your eyebrows), there is always an underlying cause. If your Pug has an ongoing halitosis problem, it will not resolve on its own. Please have health issues ruled out and always take care of your Pug's teeth.
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