Why Does My French Bulldog Have Bad Breath? (What the Smells Mean)

french bulldog bad breath

As Frenchie owners we do have a lot of stinky things to put up with. There are the legendary farts to put up with for a start, but what you don’t really hear about before your get a Frenchie is their bad breath. It’s more common than you might think as French Bulldogs can have bad breath from time to time. But it’s important to understand why and how you can cure it.

Why does my French Bulldog have bad breath? Stinky breath and halitosis in a Frenchie can be due to dental disease, plaque build-up, or other more serious health problem. French Bulldogs with really bad breath could have liver disease, kidney disease, or diabetes depending on the type of smell.

Do French Bulldogs have bad breath?

As a rule, a healthy and happy Frenchie should not have stinky or bad breath. If they do, it’s a sign of an underlying health issue, which in most cases is probably just a dental problem easily remedied with teeth cleaning.

However, some types of stinky breath could be the sign of something more serious. Learning to understand what the different smells mean could let you diagnose an issue before consulting with your vet.

I am not a vet but am a Frenchie owner who has experienced bad breath problems with our own dog Claude which we cured with teeth cleaning. Other owners I have spoken to have reported the halitosis as smelling like the following things:

  • Like alcohol.
  • Like ammonia or acetone.
  • Like blood or iron.
  • Like cabbage.
  • Like a dead animal or death.
  • Like fish or a fish tank.
  • Like garbage.
  • Like metal.
  • Like pee.
  • Like poop.
  • Like rotten meat.
  • Like a sewer or dumpster.

What I’ve done is put together a list of questions below relating to the different French Bulldog bad breath smells, with a possible answer to what it could be. Towards the bottom of the page I’ve then written a short guide on what to give a French Bulldog with bad breath.

frenchie stinky breath smells
My french bulldog has really bad breath: learn below what the smells could mean.

As with any potential health issue with your Frenchie (here’s a list of Frenchie health problems), always err on the side of caution and seek a professional diagnosis. 

The most common reason for stinky Frenchie breath

The most common Frenchie bad breath smell will be a slight stinky odor. Don’t be too alarmed as bad breath isn’t always a sign that something serious is wrong.

If you cannot see any loose teeth or sore gums, then it may just be down to bad dental hygiene, particularly due to a build-up of plaque.

Just like humans, Frenchies also need a regular dental hygiene routine. With regular teeth brushing you will help to get rid of the nasty smelling bacteria in your dog’s mouth which goes from plaque to stinky tartar. Lower down the page I’ve written a short guide on how to clean their teeth.

Handy Hint: You should brush regularly to maintain dental health; and here’s my guide to the best French Bulldog toothbrushes that money can buy.

If in any doubt, get your French Bulldog’s smelly breath checked by a vet. It could be easily remedied halitosis, gingivitis, or a more serious periodontal disease which I will describe more later down.

My French Bulldog’s breath smells like urine, pee, or ammonia

If your Frenchie’s breath smells like ammonia, urine, or anything like pee then it could be the sign of a kidney disease. Older dogs can get kidney problems which occur when their kidneys are unable to breakdown protein.

The proteins will then get into the blood, and this can attribute to blood urea nitrogen. High levels of blood urea nitrogen will have an ammonia or pee urine like smell on your Frenchie’s breath. You need to call the vet in cases like this.

My French Bulldog’s breath smells like fish

Fishy smells aren’t that uncommon in dogs but can be very confusing. After all, has your Frenchie been eating fish, do you live near a pond? Probably not, so what causes the fishy smelling bad breath then?

Well, it might not be actually be coming from inside of mouth as such, but rather because they have been licking themselves. And here’s where it gets a bit mucky…

Just like all dogs, Frenchies have anal glands. Anal glands can become blocked and will express by themselves. What’s expressed from the glands will be a very nasty smelling fishy smelling substance.

When your Frenchie then licks himself clean, he will transfer that fishy smell into his mouth. So, the result, as you would expect, is your French Bulldog then has breath that smells like fish or a stinking fish tank.

Pretty grim I am sure you will agree.

The best way to cure fishy smelling breath in a Frenchie will be take them to a vet for a professional opinion on whether the anal glands need expressing fully or not.

Handy Hint: Don’t think you have to express your Frenchie’s anal glands as an owner. Sometimes by doing so you can actually make the problem worse and here’s why. 

Alternatively, it could be that the fishy smelling breath is due to something in your French Bulldog’s diet. Check to see what’s in the ingredients of the food they are eating or consider it could be fish oil which contains omega-3 and omega-6 if you give them supplements. 

My French Bulldog’s breath smells like fruit

Another smell you might pick up on your Frenchie’s breath might not actually be bad, but instead a rather pleasant fruit smell. This could be a sign your dog has diabetes.

Dogs with diabetes are unable to breakdown the sugars in their system to give themselves energy. Instead their body will break down the fats instead, with ketone bodies getting into the bloodstream.

Those ketones will then get released from the body by breathing, and they will often have a fruity and pleasant smelling odor. You should call your vet with this breath smell.

My French Bulldog’s breath smells like rotten garbage

Very foul-smelling breath could be a sign of severe periodontal disease. For example, if your Frenchie’s breath is so bad it smells like rotting meat or stinking garbage and you can see obvious signs of dental decay then you need to go to the vet.

Severe periodontal disease will typically be conjunction with loose teeth, receding gums, exposed bone around the teeth, and possibly even pus.

A nasty change in your Frenchie’s breath could even signal oral tumors. These can occur in the back of the mouth and aren’t always that easy to see. They can also quickly spread to other parts of the body, and whilst more common in larger dogs, can affect Frenchies too.

When to call a vet

Whilst most cases of bad breath can be chalked down to poor dental hygiene or just something your French Bulldog ate, there are times when immediate professional help is advisable:

  • If your French Bulldog’s breath is unbearably bad – could be a disease.
  • If your French Bulldog has bad breath and is going to the toilet more often.
  • If your French Bulldogs has also lost weight and is vomiting.
  • If your French Bulldog is drinking more than usual.

What to give a French Bulldog with bad breath?

If you and your vet have eliminated a serious issue relating to stinky breath, or it’s was something in their diet, then I would recommend you get a professional to clean their teeth first.

Once the professional has done a thorough job, you should develop your own dental hygiene routine for your Frenchie.

You can now buy specialist dog toothpastes to clean their teeth once or twice a week. Some people will even make their own dog toothpaste to cure their Frenchie’s bad breath. This homemade toothpaste is created by mixing baking soda and water.

Handy Hint: Don’t use human toothpaste! It won’t be safe for your Frenchie. You can get some vet formulated doggy toothpaste on Amazon.

Here’s how to cure French Bulldog bad breath with a tooth brushing routine:

  • Use a special dog toothbrush (here’s one on Amazon) or a gauze pad.
  • Let your Frenchie get used to the toothpaste with a small taste at first.
  • Push your Frenchie’s lips up to expose the teeth and gums.
  • Brush gently making sure to get all surfaces of their teeth and the gums.
  • Don’t miss the back of the mouth as molars get the worst of the plaque build-up.
  • Give your Frenchie a reward afterwards to normalise the routine.

Older dogs should have their teeth professionally cleaned a couple of times a year. This is important as their gums will start to recede and teeth can become loose. Just like humans!


If your French Bulldog’s breath stinks, don’t panic. 99% of the time it will be down to dental hygiene which is easily remedied with a regular dental routine.

French Bulldog puppy bad breath probably won’t be anything serious as they should be far too young to have any serious health issue.

However, always be cautious and try to ascertain exactly what the bad breath smell is. I’ve tried my best here to match the stink up with a diagnosis, but I am not a vet so advise you always seek professional help.

The bottom line is; take care of your Frenchie’s mouth with regular brushing and you should eliminate and stop most bad breath problems.

Marc Aaron

I am one of Claude the French Bulldog's human parents. I write about all the things we've learned about owning a Frenchie, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way. Read more about Marc Aaron.

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