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Bad Breath

Yorkshire Terrier Bad Breath


Halitosis, commonly referred to as bad breath, is a common issue with canines and one that stumps many owners. Your Yorkie may be perfectly groomed and clean, yet his breath may have you turning away when your puppy or dog comes up close to your face.

In fact, in some cases, it seems impossible for such a strong odor to emit from such a small dog.

Fortunately, in many cases, the reason for the bad breath is something that you can resolve from home. This said, there are quite a few health issues that have bad breath or breath that smells like certain scents, as a symptom.

It is important to note that it is not normal for a Yorkshire Terrier to have stinky breath. 
While some dogs will have breath that smells a bit like their dog food, this is normally temporary and not to the degree that it would be highly noticed.

Since you want your Yorkshire Terrier to smell as sweet as he/she looks and of course, it’s important to get to the root of any possible health issues, this section will cover both of these aspects.
Yorkshire Terrier Italy
Pongo from Sicily, Italy, 6 months old, Photo courtesy of Lina Crispo

Medical Issues

It is first important to rule out any possible health issues that can cause a Yorkie to have bad breath. Since most of these are quite serious - and one is very relevant to the breed, it's vital to know the symptoms. In many cases, there are other signs aside from bad breath, so this list should help you sort through the possibilities. 

Halitosis may be due the following:

Diabetes – In many cases, high levels of ketones in the blood can cause a dog’s breath to have an odd, fruity sort of smell; some equate this to smelling like a pear. Another issue to be very aware of, is that if a dog has diabetes, this affects blood flow, including blood flow to the gums. This in turn, ups the odds of the dog developing periodontal disease. Canine diabetes can strike any dog of any age

Other signs include but are not limited to: Increase or decrease in appetite, excessive thirst which leads to increased urination, changes in weight, weakness, reoccurring urinary tract infections, lethargy, upset stomach, vomiting, chronic skin issues (severe drying, infections) and/or vision problems. 
Kidney issues – When the kidneys are not functioning properly, this can cause a dog’s breath to either smell like urine or to have a strong ammonia odor. Issues may include kidney stones, bacterial infection (Pyelonephritis) or disease. Though signs will vary, many are related to urination. 

These include but are not limited to: Trouble urinating (just a bit may come out at one time), blood in the urine, a bad smell coming from the urine and/or possible discoloration (tinted red or cloudy). Other signs are a fever (over 102.5 F) and/or signs of back pain (the Yorkie may sit or lie down in an odd position or hunch over). 

Respiratory issues – Any health issue that involves the lungs and breathing, can involve bad breath. This includes colds, bacterial or viral lung infections or even asthma. Other signs beside halitosis are coughing, wheezing, raspy breath, a dog may have trouble catching his breath when exercising, etc. 

Digestive issues – If a Yorkie has an upset stomach, this can cause stomach acid to come back up a bit, which has a sour, acid-type smell. Also, if there is excess gas, this can cause burping (which may be silent burps), which brings the foul smells of the stomach up into the dog’s breath. 

Others signs are the obvious vomiting and/or diarrhea, though there may also be trouble eating and a general lethargy. 

Many things can cause upset stomach; from ingestion of high-chemical foods (cheap dog food or snacks), to worms to bacterial infection. 

Medical Issues with Halitosis Commonly Seen with Yorkshire Terriers

* Liver issues This is of particular concern with Yorkshire Terriers, as this breed develops acute liver shunts nearly 36 times more often than all other dog breeds combined. This is a congenial disease, which means that a dog is born with it. However, signs may not appear right away. 

When a puppy is still a fetus, he does not use his liver. The dam’s liver is actually doing all of the work, via the placenta. When the pup is born and the umbilical cord is cut, it is then that the pup’s liver starts to work on its own.

With a liver shunt, proper blood flow in, through and out of the liver is partially or fully blocked or diverted; hence the term ‘shunt’. In cases of a partial shunt, a Yorkshire Terrier may start showing signs as late as 1 year old and in rare cases, even later in life. 

Owners that do not know to look for this disease (which again, strikes Yorkshire Terriers much more often than any other breed) may not realize what is happening until the dog is very ill. 

Signs - One sign of this is bad breath; it does not have any one particular scent, but rather is simply very stinky breath that is noticeable when the Yorkie breaths close to you. 

Other signs include: Poor growth, poor general health (the Yorkie may seem ‘off’, resting a lot, seeming depressed, etc.), reoccurring UTI’s, a bad odor coming from the urine, rubbing of the head against objects and/or strange behavior due to high ammonia toxicity causing the Yorkie to feel dizzy/confused and/or trouble eating. There may also be vomiting and/or diarrhea.

If you suspect this, please contact your vet right away. Blood testing can check for this. Treatment may be a change in diet for minor cases and surgery in moderate to severe cases. 
Tooth decay/ periodontal disease - For moderate to severe cases of bad breath, the #1 most common cause is connected to the teeth. 

While all dogs are susceptible to dental decay, toy breed dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier are very prone to this. 
Even if you brush your Yorkie’s teeth at home (and we hope you do), you may not be able to remove all of the plaque. This then turns into tartar. 

This grows at or under the gum line and can not only cause infection of a tooth, but can also travel to the sinuses or even throughout the entire body, causing sepsis (and even eventual death).

This very common reason for halitosis is often overlooked by owners. This is due to several reasons:
  • A Yorkie may be in pain; however, an owner may assume that the dog is just being picky about his food
  • Dental cleanings may be done at home and therefore an owner may assume that it can’t be anything too serious related to the teeth
  • An owner may mistakenly believe that bad breath cannot be due to tooth decay with a young Yorkie; however, it must be noted that infection can set in even for puppies and that can affect the adult teeth that have yet to emerge. 
Yorkie being held in hand
Key, 4 months old, Photo couresty of Khloé Dior
What to do: Even if you brush your Yorkie’s teeth at home and even if his breath is always fine, during his once-a-year wellness checks, his teeth will be checked, so do keep those appointments.

If your Yorkie is overdue, please schedule one right away. If needed, a ‘full dental’ will be performed, at which time all teeth are professionally cleaned and scraped and any infection or decay will be appropriately resolved. 

If your Yorkie just recently had a checkup, you may need to reassess you brushing methods and also the products that you use (more ahead). 

Most Common Reasons for Yorkie Bad Breath

1) Teething – With Yorkie puppies that are in the teething phase, bad breath is considered normal, if there are no other signs that something is wrong. 

This is often referred to as ‘milk breath’ for two reasons: the milk teeth are falling out and the pup’s breath may smell like sour milk. The odd smell is due to an overproduction of saliva mixed with small amounts of blood that are present due to the teeth loosening and falling out.  

For these reasons, once the Yorkie is done teething (usually by the 7 month mark), the bad breath will resolve itself. During this time, it is suggested to brush the puppy’s teeth each day; not only is this beneficial for good oral hygiene, it can also be incredibly appreciated by a pup that has super itchy gums (more ahead on brushing). 

In addition, routine brushing at this young age sets up a foundation of good habits, as a puppy that becomes accustomed to this is the younger version of the adult Yorkie that sits still for this grooming task. 
Yorkie puppy fresh breath
Benny, 2 and 1/2 months old,
Photo couresty of Julia Kozma
2) Dog Food Breath – While it is normal for a dog’s breath to smell a bit like the food that he just ate, in cases of moderate to severe bad breath that smells like rotting dog food, steps should be taken to intervene. 

What to do: There are 2 main causes for this:

1. Insufficient water intake – If a dog does not drink enough, he may be mildly dehydrated (not enough for owners to really notice), but it will be enough that it is slowly taking a toll on the dog. 

In addition, not drinking after eating (or only taking a couple of laps) can cause food particles to remain in the mouth. 

These will be tiny pieces that wedge themselves in and around the base of the teeth and/or on the inside of the cheeks. The food, essentially, begins to rot. And mixed with saliva, this can produce a really strong case of bad breath. 

It can help to encourage increased water intake by using a canine water fountain (these are great, because the sound and movement of the water really causes a dog to take notice and he will drink more all throughout the day) or by offering a plain or flavored ice cube after meals. 

And of course, when you brush your dog's teeth, it will rid the mouth of this old food.
2. Stale food – In some cases, if food is bought in large, bulk bags the food can start to go stale long before it is all doled out to a tiny Yorkshire Terrier. 
Kibble contains a dusting of food particle powder and if the kibble stands too long, there can be quite an increase in this. When ingested, it forms a thick paste that gets stuck in the mouth, in and around teeth, causing bad breath for hours afterward.

If this is the case, you may want to consider purchasing smaller quantities or using a different storage method such as large quality air-tight zippered bags or air-tight plastic containers. 
3) Bad Breath that Smells like Poop – In some cases, it is actually a matter of unclean teeth or the dog food breath that causes a Yorkie’s breath to smell like poop, since a buildup of food and other debris can have a terribly overpowering odor.

In other cases, it may literally be a matter of the dog smelling like he ate poop because he did. Eating feces, known as coprophagia, is often noticed by owners, but not all of the time. 

4) Foreign Object - There are many things that a Yorkshire Terrier can mouth that can then become stuck between the teeth or become a splinter, piercing the inside of the cheek or tongue. If this happens, there will be localized swelling and often, the dog will be reluctant to eat. Left untreated, infection may set in and this can cause an odd, sour-type smell. 

What to do - In some cases, you can remove a foreign object with your dog’s toothbrush. In the case of a splinter in the mouth, this is something that the vet should handle to make sure that the entire object has been removed and to prescribe antibiotic medication if needed. 

How to Keep Your Yorkie's Breath Smelling Nice and Fresh

There is always room for improvement in regard to good dental hygiene for dogs. Since tooth decay is a top concern, establishing good habits now can save your Yorkie from terrible discomfort in the future. 

And, of course, the following will help keep your Yorkie’s breath smelling nice, as long as there are no underlying medical concerns as listed above. 

1) Brush Your Yorkie’s Teeth 1 Time Per Day Using the Right Products This is by far the most important prevention and treatment not only for halitosis but also to prevent tooth decay and infection. You will want to a correctly sized brush with quality bristles. 

Also, the paste that you use is vital for good breath. Please never use human products, as fluoride is toxic to canines. Look for ones that are made in the USA, with all natural ingredients such as vanilla and tea tree oil which promotes healthy gums. 

You will also want to be sure that it does not foam, since dogs swallow the paste, and foam can make it awfully uncomfortable. Scrub for a minimum of 3 full minutes.
2) Quality Canine Dental Chews. At least one of your Yorkshire Terrier’s daily snacks should be a dental treat that is effective is helping to remove plaque, strengthen teeth and the jaw, and wipe away bad breath. As with anything that your pup or dog ingests, these should be made in the USA, with wholesome, all-natural ingredients. 

Greenie's is the absolutely best dental treat available. These are really fantastic; dogs love the taste and they are very effective in removing plaque and keeping breath fresh.

You'll want to choose the 'Teenies' option, as these are the right size for Yorkies. 

3) Canine 'Mouth Wash' Water Additive While called ‘mouth wash’, these are liquid supplements that are added to a dog’s water, that destroy bacteria that can be both in the bowl and in the mouth, thus leading to better breath. The right one can also stop the advancement of periodontal issues and help rid the mouth of plaque. 
really fluffy Yorkie
Cassie, Photo courtesy of Linda Friedman
It is a great addition to your over-all dental routine for your Yorkie. You’ll want to opt for a flavorless one, so that your Yorkie does not even notice. Unlike human products that can be used up quickly, the one that we recommend, Tropiclean Fresh Breath lasts quite a while, as only 1 teaspoon is added to every 1 cup of water. 
4) Encourage the Use of Chew Toys Chewing in and of itself will not clean a dog’s teeth nor stop bad breath; it simply is not enough. However, when a dog chews, it increases his saliva production, which in turn can help cure bad breath odors to some degree (when used in conjunction with our other tips).

And of course, great toys help cure everything from boredom to feelings of isolation when home alone

Please note: If your Yorkshire Terrier does not respond to any at-home remedies, it will be time for a full checkup with the veterinarian for an examination to rule out possible health conditions.
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How to Stop a Yorkie from Digging - If your puppy or dog loves to dig up the yard or even tries to dig at the carpeting inside, this article offers advice on how to stop - or at least control - this sort of behavior. 
How to Stop a Yorkie from Eating Feces - Why dogs do this and step-by-step guidelines to follow in order to help stop what is known as coprophagia. 
Yorkie Training Tips - If you have a new puppy and are not sure where to start, this is a good place. 
How Long Do Yorkshire Terriers Live - A detailed look at the Yorkie life span, what to expect and things you can do to help your dog live as long as possible. 
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