Closeup of Sheltie noseFor a person, bad breath usually means we ate something offensive. But for a dog to have bad breath, it means something is wrong.

Sadly, as a breed, Shelties have very high maintenance teeth. They need to be brushed and cleaned on a regular basis; yet so many Sheltie owners never notice this important health issue.

Imagine how your teeth would feel you could not brush them. Tarter would quickly build up and decay would begin on one or more teeth. Your gums would become inflamed and sore. As the decay advanced, it would eat away at your teeth…down to the roots.

Long before this point, us humans would have run to the dentist because of the pain. But a Sheltie cannot tell you what hurts; so it goes unnoticed. Soon, the decaying tooth (or teeth) and gums will become infected. Once the infection gets a good hold in your Sheltie’s mouth, THEN it starts to smell bad. An infected mouth can smell terrible! This is the point at which many people start to tease your dog about having “bad breath”. You don’t worry too much, because everyone has bad breath “sometimes”. Right?


Simply put: If your Sheltie has lingering bad breath, he needs to be seen by your vet. A tooth infection is one of the leading causes of kidney failure and a host of other medical problems in dogs.

Canine dental disease in dogs occurs as a result of the buildup of tartar, sometimes referred to as “calculus”. Tartar develops when plaque (a sticky colorless film that consists of bacteria, mucus and food) remains on the teeth for too long. The long-term effects can lead to periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis.

Gingivitis is as an inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, the gums will become infected and eventually recede, exposing the root of the tooth.  Ouch!  If this is left untreated, it will progress to a type of dental disease known as periodontitis. If you have allowed your Sheltie’s teeth to get to this point, it is likely that they will need a vet to professionally clean their teeth, and/or extract the infected teeth. Then, you will likely need to give your Sheltie antibiotics to knock out the infection. Once your Sheltie has clean, healthy teeth…. it is YOUR job to keep them that way.

Best ways to reduce & eliminate dental disease in your Sheltie:

  • Check your Shelties teeth weekly.
  • Brush & scrape the tarter off at least once per week.
  • Have your vet check your Shelties teeth (at minimum) yearly.
  • Feed dry crunchy high quality dog food & treats.

Soft dog food and treats are not good choices for maintaining healthy teeth. There is some controversy as to whether or not hard dog foods can act as an abrasive and remove already existing tartar. But at the very least, dogs who eat hard foods are less prone to dental disease than those who eat soft, moist, canned or table foods. Hard foods are less likely to adhere to the teeth and lodge beneath the gums, causing tartar buildup to develop at a less rapid rate than softer foods. Rawhide or milk bones are preferable for the same reason.

How to recognize if your Sheltie has dental problems:

  • Foul smelling “doggy breath” indicates the presence of bacteria in the mouth.
  • The appearance of yellow or brown deposits, known as calculus, usually appearing at the gum line, is another sign of dental disease in dogs.
  • Red, rather than pale pink gums.
  • The beginning of gingivitis is indicated by a red line at the base of the gums.
  • Rounded edges, rather than pointed edges, where the gum meets the tooth, are another indicator.
  • Pus, loose teeth and severe sensitivity of the mouth indicate the later stages of dental disease.
Clean dog teeth

Clean, healthy adult teeth and gums.

dirty dog teeth

Bright red gum line, tarter build up. Painful?  Bad Breath?You bet!

bad tartar on dog tooth

This dog needs vet care.

Bad tartar on dog's teeth

This case could be called abuse.

Dental disease in dogs can lead to much more serious consequences, if not treated properly. Once bacteria gets into the blood stream and circulates, any number of additional medical conditions can develop.  Circulation of bacteria can lead to organ damage. If left unchecked, dental disease in dogs can and will lead to a shorter life span for your dog.

As domesticated dogs cannot be self-sufficient, it is up to us to educate ourselves in dog teeth cleaning and dog dental care so that we can take proper care of our Shelties.

In our next installment, we will talk about the proper way to clean your Sheltie’s teeth.

Excerpts & photos courtesy of Central IL Sheltie Rescue.

Thanks to Linda for the closeup of Maxx’s nose! 

Next: Shelties and Heartworm Medications

Back to: Sheltie FAQ

6 Responses to “Does your Sheltie have bad breath?”

  1. Pam

    My dog has a really bad smell to her even after I bath her she still smells and she has bad breath

  2. lil man

    Hey I have this chihuaua that was giving to me and the person who gave it to me said that it was abandoned. well anyways, I notice the dog had really bad breath so I checked his gums and the dog has like severe plaque build up, it looks like the last picture on this page. like really bad! and before I knew this my kids were playing with him and he was licking all over them and every thing. and im just a germ a foab, but i was just wondering, is it harmful toward my kids?

  3. kabbage

    Raw bones can really help clean the teeth, too. When my dog was about 17 months old she already had bad breath. I switched her to a raw food diet including raw chicken backs. In less than a month her teeth were clean and her breath was great. She’s closing in on 12 now and still has great breath despite never having a professional teeth cleaning. You do have to do your research to make sure the diet is a good one, but cleaner teeth are a benefit of raw diets.

  4. Jorge

    Luna actually just had a vet visit about two weeks ago for a dental cleaning. She’s been switched onto a variety of foods in order to keep her weight down that it was affecting her teeth. Even though Luna gets her teeth brushed (sometimes daily) and breath mints, we’re going to have a yearly vet cleaning schedule set up just as a human would even if the tartar and plaque buildup isn’t bad. Her vet used just enough sedative to calm her down for the procedure which I think is much better than actually putting the puppy to sleep. Luna laughs more than ever now. Now if I could only find a kibble brand that doesn’t make her breath smell like fish food after she eats we’d be set!

  5. Kahlyne

    Thank you for posting this. I have been worried about my dog’s breath for a while. I got her when she was a year and a half, and her back teeth had tarter build up, and she had awful breath. I try to brush her teeth regularly, and I have had her teeth scaled twice in the last year and a half. The tarter buildup isn’t bad, but her breath is offensive. No vet has ever warned me about kidney problems. Any more information or suggestions would be appreciated.


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