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Dog's breath smells like poop and it's a problem because it's in the r we breathe. Photo by Joe Buettner, Alamy.
By Amy L. Goldman, PhD, RD
How much do you actually know about what's in your dog's breath? Do you know that your pet's breath contns hundreds of microbes, which may smell quite different from one pet to the next? Do you know that your pet's breath may even smell different when your dog has something stuck in its nose? Or that it may smell differently when he's constipated? Or when he's sick? Or when he's been to the veterinarian? Or when he's on a raw food diet?
And do you know that your dog's breath may smell better when he eats a certn type of food? Or if you feed him a certn type of food? Or if you provide him certn levels of fresh water? Or if he's healthy? Or if he's overweight? Or if he's exercising? Or if he has a shiny coat?
Do you know the many ways that you can change your pet's breath? Do you know which of the 10,000-plus odors on which they rely for communication -- including the scent of poop -- may help your dog?
Many of us can't answer any of these questions, but they're all important to know. I'll show you how to identify some of them. Then I'll expln why you should know as much as you can about how your pet's breath smells, and I'll share some of my insights from my years of study.
What your dog's breath smells like
It's hard to pinpoint exactly how many microbes are in your dog's breath because there aren't any hard-and-fast rules for how many live in his nose. The r in the dog's nose may contn anywhere from 400 to 800 types of microbes, and, on average, these may make up about 50% of all the microbes found in the nasal cavity, according to the National Animal Control Association (NACA). The NACA is one of many organizations that has studied dog breath (and their dogs' noses). For more information about the NACA, go here.
Although dogs have been known to host 1,000 types of microbes in their nose, those levels are most often found only in the nose of dogs who are old or ill, the NACA says. In contrast, dogs who are in good health typically host between five and 10 different types of bacteria in their nose. While researchers have measured the number of microbes in a dog's nasal cavity, none have tried to identify what those microbes are.
Here are some of the microbes that have been identified in dogs:
Bacilli: Found in a dog's nose and mouth, these are the same types of bacteria that cause stomach infections. Dogs who live near farms are often colonized by bacilli in their nose, and some studies have shown a link between dog nose and stomach infection.
Bacteroid: Dogs' noses contn many of the same bacteroid species found in their mouths. Bacteroid is a bacteria that is common in dog breath.
Bifidobacterium: Found in the dog's nose, this microbe is found in people's guts, too, but it is a beneficial bacterium. There is a strn that is part of a probiotic for dogs. A healthy dog's nose will contn around 1,000 species of bacteria, but about 10% to 25% of those microbes are bacteroid.
Candida: Dogs are more likely to have this fungus in their noses than in their mouths. This fungus can cause symptoms similar to respiratory infections, including coughing. (More on this here.)
Cutibacterium: Also found in dog's nose and in people's nares, this bacterium is sometimes associated with diseases in people, including asthma.
Enterobacter: This is the same bacterium that is often found in both people's and dogs' guts.
Lactobacillus: A bacteria that is found in both the nose and mouth, this microbe can cause or inhibit infections in dogs.
Proteus: This is an important bacterium in the dog's intestines. In dogs, this microbe is found in both the gut and the nose.
Bacteria can be found in a dog's nose. Source: Lactobacillus gasseri. (c) 2006, all rights reserved.
All of the other bacteria that are found in dogs' noses are also found in people's noses, and people are frequently shedding microbes from their noses, even though they are not sick. These microbes include the following:
Bacteroides: Found in both people's and dogs' intestines and often in dog's noses, this bacterium is also associated with colitis in dogs.
Enterobacter: Agn, this bacterium is similar to the same one that is found in both the gut and nose of people.
Escherichia: This bacterium is part of the bacterial flora that is found in a dog's nose.
Lactobacillus: Although the same bacterium is found in both people's and dog's mouths, this bacterium is also found in dog's noses. This bacterium helps reduce the risk of ear infections. (More on this here.)
Staphylococcus: Like Staphylococcus aureus (which you'll read more about in the next section), this bacterium is not a pathogen, but is actually beneficial to people. Because it produces lactic acid, it can make foods more easily digestible.
Bacterial Species Found in People and Dogs
It's easy to imagine that bacteria might be different between humans and dogs. Although no one has studied whether bacteria found in dogs's noses can infect humans, we do know that it's possible that these same bacteria could cause disease in humans.
The same species of bacteria that is in a dog's intestines could also be present in the same species of human intestine. For example, Bacteroides fragilis can infect the intestines of people and cause a dangerous condition called Bacteremia. This bacterium is a member of the Bacteroides fragilis group of bacteria.
These same bacteria could also find their way into a dog's nose, because the human nose is actually more like a dog's than it is a cat's or a mouse's nose. In humans, an rway is a narrow tube that starts from the mouth and ends in the sinuses. The sinuses are simply cavities on the top of the nasal cavity, just like the canine sinuses. In cats and dogs, the nasal cavity has a larger volume, because the rway is larger.
The bacteria that live in the nose of a dog are also capable of invading human noses and infecting people. Dog bacteria that can infect human noses are Staphylococcus intermedius and Staphylococcus aureus. In both species, it's the Staphylococcus aureus that causes disease in humans.
Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that lives harmlessly on your skin. It is capable of invading the bloodstream when it gets into a wound. Staphylococ