Senior Dog Bad Breath: Home Remedies

old dog breath smells

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Today, we’re going to talk about three things you should be focusing on in the home to help a senior dog with bad breath.  We’ve got some easy home remedies and DIY dental wipes. But; first things first: 

If your senior dog has sudden bad breath that smells rotten resembling fish or rotten meat, call your vet’s office now and explain the sudden smell.  Sudden odors in the mouth should be taken as seriously as any other sudden change in a senior dog and can be symptoms of major developments.

Now, let’s look at the top 3 things you can – AT HOME – do to get that “senior dog bad breath” under control:

Chart explaining How to clean a dog's teeth at home and how to get rid of senior dog bad breath.  It charts diy dog dental wipes and toothbrush importance.
Ridding Your Senior Dog of Bad Breath Begins At Home

A senior dog and bad breath do not have to go hand in hand….it’s really just a stereotype. In this article, we’re focusing on home life and what three things you can do at home to help your senior dog’s overall mouth hygiene.

Not only is bad breath unpleasant for you as the owner, but other people will resist petting your senior dog and it’s very likely making him feel bad and smell elsewhere.

He uses that smelly tongue to clean his paws and body, so it’s in your best interest to adopt some healthy home remedies and put “senior dog bad breath” in the rear view mirror.

Here are questions you need to ask yourself… how are you (Human) contributing at home to your senior dog’s oral hygiene and is it time for higher commitment?

  1. How diligent are you with cleaning your senior dog’s teeth?
  2. Is her current diet the best you can do?
  3. Is he getting the right kind of “Dental” Chew or Treat

Let’s go through them one by one.

Cleaning a Dog’s Teeth – Home Routine

Before any of our routines became “routine” they were merely “good ideas awaiting implementation.  We know we should do them and, but knowing and doing are two different things.

Cleaning and inspecting your senior dog’s mouth sounds daunting but it’s really not a big deal. By this time, you know each other well and can probably convince her of new routines.

If you haven’t been brushing or wiping your senior dog’s teeth, start with wipes every day for a week, and this will help work your way up to brushing.

Brushing is really popular, but if you have a waterpik at home (water flosser) I’ve had much success removing plaque with the waterpik vs. toothbrush. You can read the entire article here and watch a video: Waterpik Use on Dogs

Here is all the DIY things you can do at home to help your dog’s dental hygiene.

DIY Dog Dental Wipes

If you’re just starting to control bad breath in a senior dog, start with wipes. If you’re not the DIY type, then these Dog Teeth Finger Wipes (product link) are perfect for doing the job. They are recommended over brushes so you don’t hurt your dog’s mouth.

If you are the DIY type, these DIY dog dental wipes are so easy, it’s like making a sandwich! The hardest part is remembering to use them, so be sure you store them wherever you are MOST likely to use them.

For example, a little jar near your toothbrush, your pillbox, or even on your bedside table is a great reminder that your senior dog needs a mouth cleaning. Pre-making these wipes will absolutely lead to more cleanings.

Supplies Needed for DIY Dog Dental Wipes

  • Round or rectangular cotton cosmetic pads, I prefer the quilted design
  • Virgin coconut oil.
  • 1 cotton swab or other implement
  • 1 baggie or jar with lid

Take out 10 or so cotton pads; just make sure it’s an even number.  Use the cotton swab or other small implement to spread a pea-sized (small dog) or dime-sized (large dog) dab of coconut onto each pad. 

When 2 pads are completed, sandwich them together, coconut oil sides together.  This sandwich is good for ONE cleaning.  Use one pad for the top and one for the bottom, or left-side, right-side.

Like cleaning spindles on a railing – use the cotton pad to clean your senior dog’s teeth paying special attention to the gum line. Provide them fresh water when finished.

For an extra boost of freshening, sprinkle a very tiny bit of cinnamon on the pad before you use it. It will help give some scrubbing action.

DIY Dog Coconut Oil Toothpaste

After you and your dog have agreed to wipes, it’s time to move onto brushing.  Brushing really is a very effective way to treat senior dog bad breath so get to this phase as soon as possible.

If the idea of brushing your dog’s teeth is not ideal, try a waterpik. I explain how here: waterpik for dogs.

Ingredients: Coconut Oil (Drop of fish oil if needed), cinnamon, and a canine friendly toothbrush or fingerbursh. – apply to brush and clean her teeth gently!  Do not dip the toothbrush into the jar because you’ll be contaminating the jar with her mouth bacteria.

Most dogs like the taste of coconut oil.  If your dog puts up a fuss, dab a few drops of fish oil or tuna oil under each of her nostrils just before brushing. 

This can fool her brain into thinking it’s something tasty. If they fuss, put a little fish oil on the cotton pad or brush or something else they like to start the process. You can also put a drop on toothbrush as well.

Senior Dog Breath Fresheners

Okay it’s important to realize that we can do things to relieve the: “senior dog bad breath” stigma, but “freshening breath” is not a solution, it simply masks the problem.

It’s kind of like applying deodorant forever to an unwashed armpit. It’s just not going to solve the underlying issue.

Breath fresheners are mint and parsley. Some dogs will chew parsley and then spit it out which could be perfect. 

Probiotics like yogurt and Kefir have beneficial bacteria. Most dogs’ welcome a little taste of yogurt or kefir, just make sure it’s plain, yogurt.  No sugars or other chemicals, otherwise skip it.

For a quick senior dog bad breath freshener, use a dental wipe with a sprinkle of cinnamon and wipe his teeth. 

Alternatively, combine 1 teaspoon of finely chopped parsley with about a half teaspoon of coconut oil. Add kefir until it’s like runny mayonnaise and let her lick it.

And for a solution that you add to your dog’s water bowl or spritz on teeth, read my other in-house article here about: Mouthwash for Dogs

A Quality Diet Reduces Senior Dog Bad Breath

The raw diet revolution.  By now, you are probably either

  • feeding your senior dog a raw diet
  • incorporating raw components,
  • know someone who is feeding their dog a raw diet
  • Heavily researching whether or not you can handle this switch

Holistic and progressive veterinarians, especially those specializing in canine nutrition are OFF kibble and especially kibble that’s touted as “dental diet” health.

Most kibble formulated sold under the guise of “dental diet” is sprayed with polymers-like substances (which we will get into momentarily)

The highest quality diet you can afford to give your dog should be a high priority.  Everything about my senior dog improved once I swapped kibble for homemade raw, and I was buying all the grain-free top rated wet and dry that money could buy. If you’re still in the research phase of considering raw diet for your senior dog, I made a guide for beginners: Starting a senior dog on raw food.

Chews, Kibble, Treats Sold As “Dental” Formulas

Millions of pet owners have turned to commercially available products to address “senior dog bad breath” syndrome.

As with everything else in the world, you’d be wise to look at the ingredients in these products and research the possible side effects.

For example, many popular dental chews, treats, sticks, and kibble have a polymer-like ingredient sprayed to the exterior or mixed into the recipe.  It’s called Sodium Hexametaphosphate.  I’ll could go on forever regarding this controversial ingredient, but I’ll keep it consolidated. I would never feed it to my dog.  Here is why:

Material Safety Data Sheets – Dog Ingredients

I like to research food ingredients, especially those of a chemical nature, by using the library of Material Safety Data sheets, or MSDS for short.  If you’ve never heard of MSDS; think OSHA –Occupational Safety Health Administration.  You can search MSDS library on any search engine.

MSDS is a document that contains information on the potential hazards of substances (health, fire, reactivity and environmental) and it also cautions humans how to work safely with the product.

Here is snippet, word for word from The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) regarding Sodium Hexametaphosphate – the ingredient sprayed or added to some “dental” promoting products and chews.


Laboratory data Oral LD50 (rat): 6600 mg/kg.

Dermal LD50 (rabbit): > 7940 mg/kg.

Eye Irritation (rabbit): 1.3/110.0; slightly irritating

Skin irritation (rabbit): 0.0/8.0, nonirritating

Rats fed this material in their diet for one month showed decreased growth, increased kidney, lung and spleen weight, and kidney damage. Rats fed this material for two years also showed decreased weight gain, increased kidney weight, and kidney changes. No increase in tumors was reported. No adverse effects in reproduction capacity were reported in a multigenerational study using rats fed this material. This material has been defined as a hazardous chemical under the criteria of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).

And this is why I don’t feed it to my senior dog to control bad breath.  Even if it does exactly what it claims (removes plaque build up, controls tarter, etc.) it’s not going in my dog’s mouth, via my hand.

I love researching chemical ingredients using the MSDS and it’s a great way to take control of learning exactly what you’re feeding your senior dog.

In retrospect, my research of chemical additives had to be the tipping point for helping me commit to switching my senior dog to a homemade, raw food diet.

Dental Chews for Senior Dog Bad Breath

Commercially Available Dental Help

Unsavory chemicals and additives are not in all dog “dental” products.  But if you don’t want them to contain ingredients classified as hazardous chemicals you’ll have to read labels.

I give my dog homemade treats and raw poultry necks (he’s a chewer).  If I had to rely on a commercial product, I would consider trying one if it had zero chemicals, no emulsifiers and was made in the USA with USA ingredients.

Supervised RAW meaty bone

For dogs that actually chew their food, a raw meaty bone such as a poultry neck, will do a lot of the hard work for removing plaque and believe it or not: alleviate senior dog bad breath. Bonus?  Dogs love them.

However, if your dog is a known gulper or scarfer, meaning everything is just swallowed or lightly chewed; these will not help brush your dog’s teeth and could do more harm than good.

If you just can’t bring yourself to give your dog raw meaty bones, then a fibrous piece of meat is a good substitute.

Use right-sized hunks or long strings of pieces. To get a long piece, cut a piece of chicken breast in a round-about way – like the way you would peel an apple if you were trying to make one long, giant peel. 

Always, always supervise to make sure your dog is using her teeth and not or dragging raw meet to a secret hiding place for later.

Other Ways to Help Control Senior Dog Bad Breath

Keep Toys and Kongs Washed

Can you imagine the amount of bacteria loaded on your Senior Dog’s favorite plush toy or kong? Make toy cleaning part of the good mouth hygiene routine.

Swap Dog Bowls Every Meal

As your senior dog licks the bottom of his food dish, he’s leaving behind loads of bacteria.  If we refill the bowl without cleaning, all the bacteria stays and multiplies back, hungrier than before.  Every meal is a new bowl when trying to control senior dog bad breath.

Change water and bowl daily

After a dog drinks from her bowl, what remains is mostly “backwash” and it’s loaded with bacteria.  Make a habit of providing fresh water throughout the day and changing that bowl every morning or night.  Find a routine that works for you.


The safest way of controlling senior dog bad breath is by giving your dog the gift of a healthy mouth. The best ways to a healthy mouth at home is :

  • Brush and wipe your senior dog’s teeth
  • Feed the best quality food possible
  • Offer quality chews that assist in cleaning

If you implement this into your daily and weekly routine, you’ll begin to notice an improvement and pretty soon there will be no more senior dog bad breath.

The best senior dog care comes when you combine proactive home remedies and professional consultation.  Going it alone or depending solely on your veterinarian is bound to result in gaps of your senior dog’s optimal health.

And finally, don’t put it off.   Really bad breath in a senior dog can be a sign of serious tooth and gum issues, and can be a symptom of very serious diseases. If your dog’s mouth cannot be improved with a home routine you are very likely facing a professional dental cleaning. Try this helpful article: Is My Dog Too Old for a Dental Cleaning.

Remember, if the change in your dog’s breath is sudden, get to your vet so you can rule out serious issues and then begin your new routine.

Thanks for visiting SeniorDogDays!

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