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Bad Breath

Shih Tzu Bad Breath


A common issue that owners must contend with is their Shih Tzu having bad breath despite a good routine of grooming and care. 

When there is a chronic (ongoing) issue of breath smelling bad, the medical term is halitosis. 

There are several reasons why a Shih Tzu puppy or older dog may start to have this issue and not all are due to health conditions. 

This section will discuss:
  • The 5 top causes of bad breath
  • Exactly how to fix bad breath with a 4-punch plan
  • Health issues that can cause halitosis
  • Bad breath just when burping

5 Top Reasons that Can Cause a Shih Tzu to Have Chronic Bad Breath

Do note that in some cases, more than one of the following may be taking place. So, you'll want to rule out all possible causes in order to permanently resolve bad breath problems. 
#1 - Dog food. When people say that a dog has 'dog breath' this most commonly refers to breath smelling like dog food; old dog food, that is! Because while your Shih Tzu's food may actually smell just fine when in the bag, this can quickly change.

This is particularly true of dry kibble, even if it's a top-quality brand.  Any dry food normally creates particle dust. These are fine pieces that naturally flake off. 

There will typically be a light dusting over the kibble bits, and if food is allowed to become stale or if a dog gets the last scoop from the bottom of the package, this can lead to even more fine particles that he is eating.

Then, when a Shih Tzu eats, this 'dust' mixes with saliva and can form a thick, chalky paste-like substance that sticks to the inside of the cheeks and into tiny crevices of the teeth.

In turn, this food that's left behind in the mouth can start to get very stinky. 
What to do: 

For this, be sure to keep your puppy or dog's food as fresh as possible. If you buy large bags, you may find it best to transfer the food to air-tight containers. If you notice that the last scoop or two has lots of particle dust on it, use a strainer to remove this before pouring the bits into the bowl. 

In addition, the upcoming remedy tips for fixing bad breath can resolve this quickly. 

#2 Fish oil. 

Fish oil (omega 3, 6 and/or 9) is exceptionally good to help dogs maintain healthy skin and coat. Most high quality dog food brands contain this, but not at levels that would cause stinky breath.

However, if a Shih Tzu is having a skin or coat issue that is being treated with omega 3 fish oils, it may reach a certain level in which it is causing bad breath that smells like fish. In some cases, an odd smell can permeate from all over the body. 

What to do:

For this, you may want to see if you can cut back a bit on the amount of fish oil that you are giving to your Shih Tzu. And in addition, the upcoming tips will help a great deal. 

#3 Plaque build-up and possible dental issues.

All day, around the clock, plaque is being produced. If this is not properly removed, it accumulates. Within 3 days, it starts to harden into tartar. While tartar can be removed as well, it is much more difficult to do so.

So, a few things can happen:
  • An unclean mouth with plaque buildup on the teeth can be quite smelly. 
  • The plaque/tartar eats away at the enamel on the teeth. This leads to infection and decay.
  • Gums can become infected as well (gingivitis).
  • Teeth can eventually loosen and fall out. 
  • If left untreated, infection can travel up into the sinuses and/or cause a full-body infection (sepsis).
What to do:

Fortunately, our tips to fix bad breath can be very effective for this. 

#4 Something wedged in the teeth.

The culprit may be food (possibly something stolen from the trash or off of the floor), a splinter from a stick, or other small object that is wedged and causing over salivation. If the object is sharp, there may be some light bleeding that lends to the strange odor. 

What to do:

If you suspect this, you can do an inspection with a flashlight to see if you can spot anything. With the help of an assistant, you may be able to remove a foreign object either using floss or a small plaque scraper. 

However, if your Shih Tzu is not tolerant to this or removal is proving to be difficult, it will be best to have the veterinarian take care of this. 

#5 Teething

For Shih Tzu puppies that are in the teething stage, bad breath may be directly linked to this. When teeth are cutting through the gums, there will be small amounts of blood. When this mixes with saliva, it can cause a pretty bad odor. Most often this is equated to an odd, sour-type smell.

What to do:

Continue helping your Shih Tzu with teething by offering the right toys; lots of chewing will lead to new saliva that can wash away blood. And, the following tips (right below) will help as well (it's never too early for good dental hygiene).

How to Fix Your Shih Tzu's Bad Breath

1) If your Shih Tzu has not had his teeth examined by the vet in a while (more than 1 year), or if you suspect a problem, you'll want to make an appointment for this. If there are any serious issues such as infection or decay, the following home remedies to fix bad breath will not resolve these.

Once any underlying issues are taken care of, you can start with a clean slate (pun intended) to keep your Shih Tzu's teeth strong and healthy and his breath smelling great. 

2) Start an at-home routine of proper oral hygiene.

This can be accomplished with a 4-punch plan. 

And once you get into the habit of these tasks, you'll find that it does not take a long time to make serious strides in keeping the teeth free from decay and plaque at bay for good smelling breath. 

Brush your Shih Tzu's teeth daily using #1 a quality toothbrush that is sized for toy dogs with #2 an effective canine toothpaste.

If your Shih Tzu is not used to having his teeth cleaned, you may find that a fingertip-brush works well. This is a small rubber piece that slips over your finger, and allows you to scrub manually. 

Alternatively, a small-sized canine toothbrush works well to reach all those little crevices where bacteria, plaque, and smell hide out. 

For the paste, it's important to use a quality canine paste (more ahead). You'll want one that does not foam (since dogs swallow the paste), fluoride-free (fluoride is toxic), made in the USA, and with a flavor that will be well-received (most dogs love vanilla or meat flavors like chicken). 

Aim to brush your puppy or dog's teeth once per day, with twice per day being ideal. A good scrubbing should last for 3 minutes. 

The #3 element is to offer a daily dental chew. This will work to remove plaque that cannot be scrubbed off. Be sure to choose one that has been approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

And finally, #4 is to use a plaque-fighting water supplement. This is sometimes referred to as 'canine mouthwash', even though it is meant to be swallowed. We recommend using a tasteless one. This will both help kill bacteria in the mouth and make a dog's breath smell nice and fresh. 
Recommended finger brush, paste, dental chews, and 'mouthwash' are below. If you do not see the images, try a refresh. On mobile, you may need to turn your screen horizontal to see all 4. 

Health Conditions that Can Cause Bad Breath

There are a range of health conditions that can cause a dog's breath to smell bad or odd. It should be noted that most are rare but should be considered in cases of a Shih Tzu having an issue that is not easily cleared up and dental issues have been ruled out.

Diabetes - With this, abnormal sugar levels in the bloodstream can cause the breath to have an unusual fruity or sweet scent. 

Liver disease - Typically this condition causes very strong bad breath; however, there will be other symptoms that include a yellowing of the eyes and/or gums, decreased appetite and/or stomach distress including vomiting. 

Kidney disease - If a dog's breath has the distinct smell of urine, an issue with the kidneys is always a top concern. 

Lung disease - There can be issues with the lungs, including cancer, that cause a foul smell to be emitted when the dog breathes. 

If a Shih Tzu has Bad Breath Only when Burping

Some dogs have no bad breath issues at all except for a problem with letting out burps that are very foul smelling. 

Burping itself happens when the body rids itself of excess air from the stomach. The smell from partially digested food will travel out with the burp and can be very unpleasant. 

The extra air that is in the stomach is most typically due to a dog eating too drinking too quickly. 

This can be resolved by using a portion pacer. This is a small porcelain or stainless-steel ball that is places into the bowl over the food. This works to distribute the food and cause a dog to eat around it; which in turn promotes slower ingestion.

If there are any other signs of stomach distress including but not limited to vomiting, dry heaving, change in appetite, loose stools and/or constipation, a vet visit will be needed to diagnose the issue which will be a more involved matter than just bad breath. 
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