The 8 Best Dog Foods For Bad Breath

By Kevin Myers | 2023 Update

This ultimate guide lists all of the best dog foods for bad breath this year.

Your dog is not only a best friend but a family member, and of course, spends a lot of time with you.

Smelly breath isn’t just off-putting; it often signals a health problem, and possibly a serious one at that. The reasons for your dog’s bad breath can range from dental issues to gastrointestinal disease.  

Finding the root problem will provide the best solution, and there are even dog food recipes to address this.  

Read on for an array of dog food choices to combat bad breath, and you’ll be sure to find at least one to meet your needs.

Let’s dive in…

The Best Dog Foods For Bad Breath

Top PicksRatingTop 5 ingredients
1. Purina Pro Plan Dental Health4.6Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Yellow Corn, Ground Wheat
2. Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Brown Rice Recipe4.6Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Barley, Rice Bran, Whole Grain Brown Rice
3. Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care4.7Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Fat
4. Hill’s Science Diet Oral Care4.3Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat,Powdered Cellulose, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat
5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental4.6Brewers Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brown Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat

How to change dog food without getting your pup sick

1. Purina Pro Plan Dental Health

Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brewers Rice, Ground Yellow Corn, Ground Wheat

The prime cause of foul doggy breath is poor dental health, and this food tackles that problem at its source. The crunchy texture produces just enough friction to scrape tartar from teeth safely. It works so well that it was awarded a Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance for reducing tartar buildup.

Purina Pro Plan starts with high-quality protein and adds antioxidants for a strong immune system. Kibble around the size of peas works for dogs of all sizes.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Works to prevent tartar buildup
  • Wogs like it
  • More affordable than other veterinarian-recommended dental foods
  • Small size is sometimes swallowed whole by large breeds making the texture ineffective
  • Has decreased stomach and digestion issues
  • Has helped with bad breath
  • Dog prefers the taste to Science Diet
  • Size doesn’t always work as one-size-fits-all

2. Nutro Natural Choice Lamb and Brown Rice Recipe

Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Lamb, Chicken Meal, Whole Grain Barley, Rice Bran, Whole Grain Brown Rice

Nutro Natural Choice starts with quality protein and includes glucosamine and chondroitin to preserve the tooth’s protective enamel coating. Added calcium in the recipe strengthens teeth inside and out.  

Many dental problems begin with swollen gums, and Nutro Natural Choice contains anti-inflammatory minerals and vitamins that help with general nutrient deficiencies that affect the teeth and gums.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Dog with sensitive stomach did better with this than veterinary brands
  • I May have changed the recipe as my dog recently lost energy after a new bag design
  • Worked well for an old dog as far as chewing
  • Stopped skin problems like itching
  • The adult dog didn’t like it
  • Good price
  • No side effect

3. Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care

Top 5 Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Whole Grain Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Pork Fat

Hill’s Dental Care is clinically proven to take care of tartar buildup, plaque and even work on existing teeth stains. It is prescription-only dog food and has a specially designed matrix of fibers that creates a consistency that specifically targets plaque and bacteria buildup on teeth.

The shape and size clean each tooth surface as dogs eat. The large kibble size requires them to crunch longer to get the most out of the food’s dental benefits.

What Real Customers Found:

  • cleaned up plaque on periodontal-disease-prone breed
  • fast improvement after only a few days on the food
  • no bad breath
  • dogs love it
  • helped with existing periodontal disease case
  • picky eaters love it
  • some find it a little too big kibble size
  • costly

4. Hill’s Science Diet Oral Care

Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat,Powdered Cellulose, Brown Rice, Chicken Fat

Besides providing a great low-calorie option for those dogs trying to get their beach bodies back, this Science Diet formula incorporates antioxidants and vitamins C and E to boost the immune system.

The kibble consists of interlocking fibers that clean teeth and leave breath smelling clean. Its large size works with the texture in cleaning plaque and tartar, prompting dogs to invest more time chewing. The recipe also includes nutrients to support brain health.

What Real Customers Found:

  • 11- and 14-lb dogs with missing teeth can chew it
  • Kibble size a bit too big for small breeds though supposed to be for all sizes
  • Very small dogs enjoy it
  • One dog couldn’t eat it since it was big and very hard
  • Works for keeping breath clean even after just brushing failed
  • Controls tartar buildup

5. Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental

Top 5 Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Brown Rice, Corn, Chicken Fat

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet’s Dental recipe attacks breath issues from both a healthy teeth aspect and digestive health.  Nutrients and vitamins promote helpful microflora in the intestine, and antioxidants nourish at the cellular level.

Omega-3 fatty acids strengthen joints, bones, and teeth. The consistency and shape of the kibble promote chewing to further the gentle abrasion that prevents calculus buildup on teeth.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Teeth noticeably clean
  • Dogs love as a meal or supplemental treats
  • Controls tartar buildup
  • The dog wouldn’t eat it
  • Even dogs with pulled teeth can crunch it
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Little dogs can still handle the big size and crunch on it
  • Doesn’t upset a sensitive stomach
  • Keeps down plaque

6. Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain

Top 5 Ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Egg Product, Lentils

The Sierra Mountain formula offers a high percentage of protein and fat, with lamb as its first ingredient. Other ingredients, like fiber and carbohydrates, come from quality sources as well.  Plentiful amino acids pack the kibble with healthy fuel for the entire body in addition to significant amounts of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12.  

Chicory root aids digestion and nourishes helpful intestinal bacteria.  If you have an allergy-prone dog, be sure to check out the long list of ingredients before you buy.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Cuts down the smell of bad breath
  • Helped with dental problems and bad breath
  • Eliminates unpleasant odors
  • One dog didn’t like flavor after the recipe changed
  • Affordable compared to other grain-free foods
  • Dogs with digestion problems improved on this
  • The dog has seen improved dental, bone, and joint health
  • Keeps coats shiny
  • Stool a little harder on this

7. Iams Proactive Health Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal

Iams has long been recommended to pet parents by veterinarians as an affordable, non-prescription brand with no fillers.

The first ingredient in the proactive health formula is lean chicken, alongside nutrients that keep joints, bones, and teeth strong. Prebiotics and a good source of fiber encourage healthy digestion. The puppy formula works great for a healthy start in life.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Took care of bone, teeth, and bad breath problems
  • Mature small breed could not eat the big kibble
  • A 14-yr-old dog on this food for seven years has all her teeth and complete
  • Fixes joint and bone pain and dental problems for mature dogs
  • Good taste
  • Senior dog more active on this
  • Picky dog didn’t want

8. Purina Beyond Chicken, Lamb, and Spinach Canned Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Liver, Lamb, Spinach

This canned food reportedly cleans breath without the help of dry kibble texture. High in protein without too much fat, clean ingredients like lean chicken and spinach help alleviate sour breath.  

A quality food without a high price tag, this Purina Beyond recipe contains no fillers and provides the versatility of standing alone as a meal or mixing with dry kibble.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Dogs loved it
  • Great value
  • Liked the ground consistency
  • Smells better than other canned foods in the can and on the dog’s breath afterward
  • Not easy on sensitive stomachs
  • Smells like human-consumption deli meat
  • Good for a senior dog with allergies
  • Coat looks healthier than it has in years
  • Saw improvements in breath smell and skin allergies

Bonus: Eukanuba Adult Dry Dog Food

Top 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Corn, Chicken By-Product Meal, Wheat, Ground Grain Sorghum

The Life Protection Formula by Blue Buffalo offers a great holistic health option. Prominent ingredients include real meat, healthy grains, vegetables, and fruits, emphasizing protein. Many of the essential nutrients in the recipe help promote strong teeth, like phosphorous, calcium, and glucosamine.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Dogs loved
  • Small size kibble good for small and senior dogs
  • keeps bowel movements regular
  • Odorless breath and shinier coat
  • Made dog sick
  • Chewable even for toothless dog
  • Noticeable difference in dental health and breath
  • Picky dogs liked it
  • Breath has improved

Bonus. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula

Top 5 Ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Barley, Oatmeal

The Life Protection Formula by Blue Buffalo offers a great holistic health option. Prominent ingredients include real meat, healthy grains, vegetables, and fruits, emphasizing protein. Many of the essential nutrients in the recipe help promote strong teeth, like phosphorous, calcium, and glucosamine.

What Real Customers Found:

  • Dogs loved
  • Cleared up allergy issues
  • Great for their fur and breath
  • Cleared up skin allergies
  • Food smells bad
  • Cleared up bad breath
  • Good sized kibble for any size and breed
  • Started having bad gas
  • Improved breath and less gassy


FAQ’s & Buyer’s Guide

How does halitosis in dogs start?

Several causes throughout the body can result in bad breath for dogs. Gastrointestinal problems, from the minor like an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria to the major such as intestinal blockage, can create conditions for smelly breath. Dental issues ranging from broken teeth to periodontal disease all usually involve the buildup of bacteria, leading to odor, which are the most common causes of bad breath.

In what ways does diet influence breath?

Certain foods combine with a dog’s natural body chemistry for an unpleasant breath smell, or they could have picked up an odor from something they nudged their nose and mouth into during explorations outside. Chronic bad breath can also be caused by food that doesn’t address your dog’s digestive health. Once you and your veterinarian find the right food, it can also provide the solution.

Is dental health that important?

A dog uses its mouth for other things besides eating. Dogs use their mouths to explore their world by licking, chewing, and tasting things not meant for them. With infected gums, broken teeth, and periodontal disease, using their mouth causes a lot of pain, and it likely won’t take long until eating isn’t worth it, which will quickly lead to other health problems. Dogs that can’t do what they usually do with their mouths can become listless and depressed.

How does dog food actively remove tartar?

Dog food in hard kibble form can actively rub against the tooth’s outer surface during chewing and naturally remove tartar.  Fortunately this prevents the buildup of bacteria within tartar deposits which can also lodge beneath the gumline.  Various dog food recipes take advantage of this by utilizing certain textures that effectively scrape away the tartar and specific size and shape of kibble to keep them chewing long.

Is dry dog food the only way to reduce plaque buildup?

Some veterinarians advise parents of dogs with dental problems to steer clear of wet food as it may get under the gumline easier and cause bacteria buildup. However, some canned food formulas exist in the market now that have textures less likely to lodge between teeth and nutrients that discourage plaque.

What should I do in conjunction with a healthy diet to promote good dental health for my dog?

If your dog will allow you to brush his/her teeth, this is a fantastic way to prevent painful and debilitating dental issues. Just as the bristles reach between teeth and into the gumline for humans, they can rid dogs’ mouths of hard-to-reach plaque. In addition, having a dental checkup and teeth cleaning with your veterinarian will identify any red flag health issues and address them as early as possible.

Should I take my dog to the veterinarian for chronic bad breath?

Persistent bad breath is often the first sign of a more serious health problem. Your dog may have allergies, anxiety, dental, or gastrointestinal difficulties not easily observed from the outside. A veterinarian’s experienced eyes will likely be able to identify the problem quickly, or they may determine a need for internal testing that will save lots of pain and cost later.

Is bad dog breath a symptom of diabetes?

If you smell a sweet, fruity smell from your dog’s mouth, there is a good chance your dog is diabetic, and you’ll need to make an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Diabetic dogs have trouble breaking down glucose, so the buildup of ketones in their system gives off a fruity smell.

Do dog foods containing fish cause bad breath?

Being a lean protein, fish is a clean ingredient in dog food. Particularly after cooking and producing the finished meal, fishy smells are not likely to linger within dog food packages or cans. If the food itself triggers an allergy in your dog or is otherwise a wrong fit, bad breath might be a secondary result.

Isn’t bad breath normal for dogs?

Let’s be honest—none of us smell like a meadow all the time.  We love our dogs no matter what and sloppy dog kisses are well worth a little doggy smell.  However, dog breath should typically be only a mild, normal mouth/saliva smell.  An underlying pungent smell could be nothing more than particularly smelly food, but if it doesn’t pass, it’s not something you should igno

The teeth break up the food and pass it down the esophagus to the stomach and intestines for breakdown and absorption of the nutrients and then discarding the waste. Interruptions or difficulties in this process often result in a gassy, bloated belly, which may or may not coincide with smelly breath. Digestive issues often cause bad breath, so look for these signs and consider trying different food.

How are dogs equipped to keep their mouths clean?

Dog saliva is a powerful tool in keeping dental problems away and mouths and breath clean. At the chemical level, dog saliva contains compounds that naturally attack harmful bacteria, which is why dogs habitually lick at wounds and itchy spots, and this process encourages healing.

My dog licks or eats anything he finds.  Can I really solve his bad breath problem?

In a word, yes. Your dog can chew, lick, or otherwise investigate lots of foul and disgusting things it finds on the ground before you can stop them and still come out smelling fresh and clean. Dog saliva is more powerful than ours at keeping things sterile. If it persists, bad breath probably has to do with an internal problem.

If I give my dog breath-freshening chews, do I still have to change his diet?

Dental chews can take care of minor smells coming from dog breath. Chews formulated with compounds that address tartar buildup can prevent dental problems that lead to chronic bad breath. Sometimes this is all it takes to keep your dog’s mouth healthy, but if his/her diet is not meeting nutritional needs, then health problems will crop up sooner or later.

Is bad breath something that mainly happens with senior dogs?

Having used their teeth for many more years than younger dogs, senior dogs are prone to broken or infected teeth.  Their systems may have trouble retaining calcium and other minerals that keep teeth strong.  With care and attention, though, senior dogs can enjoy dental health and pain-free chewing and eating.  Annual teeth cleaning at your veterinarian’s office goes a long way!

Is there a breath-freshening, dental-health food that will be easy on my dog’s sensitive stomach?

You’re in luck! The expansive market of dog food and products offers many foods that address one issue or several at once. Several foods contain beneficial ingredients that work to fight dental problems and keep components simple enough that allergy-prone dogs should digest them with no problem.

Does the size of kibble matter in helping to fight plaque?

Size of individual pieces of dog food does play a role in the way dogs chew and scrape excess plaque from their teeth. Larger pieces mean longer chewing time so that each piece can be more effective in agitating plaque and washing it away. Keep your dog’s size and eating tendencies in mind, though, when choosing the right food.  You don’t want a kibble so large they won’t eat it or so small they’ll swallow without chewing

What are the more serious conditions bad breath can indicate?

Digestive problems are one thing, but blockages in the intestine can be especially scary. Blockages that cannot be resolved naturally may require surgery to fix. When kidney function breaks down, bad breath can result from waste products not being removed from the body as they normally would be.

Are certain dog breeds more prone to bad breath?

According to polls of dog owners, it seems that dogs with the worst breath, and those who frequently have to go to the veterinarian for dental problems, tend to be smaller breeds with lots of fur around their facial areas. This problem may result from smaller teeth have smaller spaces between them and smaller pockets in the gum areas for bacteria to hide and multiply. Furrier faces may also unwittingly collect more food particles that may go unnoticed/uncleaned.

How do I brush my dog’s teeth?

Get your dog used to consistently opening their mouth for you while training, and reward them with praise. Purchase a dog toothbrush, which is smaller to get into smaller mouth crevices and features softer bristles to get in the gumline.

What You Should Look For In Choosing Dog Food That Will Keep Breath Fresh

Kibble Size

Whether you choose a prescription food with patented technology kibble shape and consistency or just the right size and crunch, the potential for kibble to shake plaque loose from teeth goes a long way in keeping your pet’s breath fresh. The crunching action creates friction that doesn’t erode the protective enamel prematurely and loosens plaque buildup. For large breeds, many brands now have large kibble that requires prolonged chewing. There are smaller bites for smaller dogs too. Whatever the size of the dog and kibble, they need to match so that the kibble is chewed and not swallowed whole.

Ingredients That Promote Dental Health

Calcium – directly nourishes bones and teeth and strengthens tooth enamel

Glucosamine and chondroitin – promote strong tooth enamel structure

Fatty acids – lipids are essential to the health of many tissues, and for gums in particular they specifically inhibit the inflammation response in the gums and prevent the development of periodontal disease

Antioxidants – among other benefits, these fight off damage from free radicals to tissues like gums, helping to prevent gum inflammation and periodontal disease

Ingredients That Help Digestion

Prebiotics – these nourish the helpful bacteria lining the gastrointestinal tract

Probiotics – one of the forms of healthy bacteria which help with the breakdown of foods and the elimination of harmful bacteria, probiotics aid in keeping a dog’s mouth clean and beneficial by displacing harmful bacteria between teeth and in gumline spaces

Great Taste

Your dog has to like and eat the food for it to work.  With quality ingredients that nourish the whole body and bring a hearty taste that your dog will look forward to, the right dog food will be able to accomplish a full belly, a healthy body, and fresh, clean breath.