Basenji Bad Breath (How To Fix Stinky Basenji Breath)

In this post, we are going to be looking at Basenji bad breath, what causes it and how to treat it. Though Basenjis have a reputation for being aloof and independent, they are quite affectionate.  This means that from time to time, they want to spend time close to you.

Though this would usually be a welcome thing for any Basenji parent, it’s not the most pleasant thing when their breath is smelly. So what exactly causes bad breath in your Basenji?

Basenji bad breath can be due to poor diet, bad oral hygiene or from eating decaying food. In more serious situations, it can be a sign of an underlying health issue like diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, periodontal disease or a stomach infection.

Regardless of the cause, the fact remains that it needs to be fixed. In the rest of this article, we are going to be looking at the reasons for bad breath more closely and how you can fix them.

Offering a Basenji dog a treat during reward based training.
Offering a Basenji dog a treat during reward based training.

Why Does My Basenji Have Bad Breath?

Your Basenji’s breath will stink due to a number of factors. Bad breath will range in scope based on what the cause is as you will see in this post.

You are going to get a few tips on how to identify the cause and remedy it but it’s important to highlight that bad breath can be a sign of an underlying, bigger problem that may need the attention of a vet.

Let’s look at some of the possible causes for bad breath in your Basenji.

red and white basenji puppies
Two Basenji puppies are playbiting each other.

Poor Oral Hygiene

When you notice a sudden change in your Basenji’s breath, the first place to usually check is the mouth. Have you been cleaning your Basenji’s teeth properly lately? Basenjis can be described as mid sized dogs. This means that their teeth are closer together than in bigger breeds.

Smaller breeds have a higher likelihood of experiencing dental problems because their teeth are set closer together. This means that you will need to clean their teeth more often and provide things like chew toys or bones that help keep their teeth clean and breath fresh.

You can use a brush and toothpaste specially formulated for dogs or you can also use a rubber finger brush to brush their teeth on a regular basis. Food stuck in their mouth or broken or loose tooth can be a possible cause of their bad breath.

Dental plaque or tarter building up in their teeth will cause their breath to smell as well. If, on the other hand, you have been consistent with keeping their teeth clean, the cause of their bad breath may lie somewhere else.

basenji dog looking happy as it explore a hedge
A happy Basenjoy dog explores a hedge. Red and white markings.

Poor Nutrition

This is another possible reason for your B having bad breath. A diet that is not balanced can cause gastrointestinal and other issues that may cause their breath to smell. If the problem is something that came up after a change in their diet, it is possible that the change in diet is a cause.

Try removing the new food from their diet and see if that changes things. You will also need to do this in consultation with your vet so that they advise accordingly.

Poor Health/ Sickness

There are a number of health related issues that can be a possible cause of bad breath. It can actually be a cue for you to pay closer attention to your B as they may have a more serious problem.

Let’s look at some of these.

A full grown Black and White Basenji sits on the grass
A full grown Black and White Basenji sits on the grass

Gastrointestinal Problems

Several issues to do with the gastrointestinal system can manifest through bad breath. It can be a stomach infection, inflammation or other related problem.


Diabetes also leads to bad breath. In this case though, it will smell sweet or fruity. If you notice this, contact your vet immediately and have them run tests to see if it is indeed diabetes or something else causing bad breath.

Frequent urination and thirst are another sign that your B could be diabetic.

Liver Disease

Liver disease is another possible reason for bad breath in your Basenji if it is not functioning properly.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease can also lead to your Basenji having bad breath.

a Basenji guessing which paw a treat is in
Basenjis are quite good at nosework, like this puppy guessing which hand the treat is in.

Eating or Drinking Contaminated Food

Basenjis and dogs in general are known to have an affinity for eating from the garbage or eating decaying animals they may find outside. Dogs are also known to eat cat poop. If they drink contaminated water from an outside drain it will also lead to bad breath.

Make sure that there is no clear opportunity for them to do this by securing and putting barriers around trash and contaminated water sources around the house.

Solutions for Bad Breath in Your Basenji

Now, let’s look at the things you can do to get rid of bad breath in your Basenji.

Tooth Brush and Toothpaste

The first thing you should do is make sure that you brush your B’s teeth regularly. There are toothbrushes and flavored toothpaste for dogs that have flavors like beef and chicken. Make sure to never use regular toothpaste as it contains xylitol which can kill dogs.

Besides toothbrushes, there are special rubber brushes that fit around your finger and you can brush their teeth with.

patting a happy red basenji on the head
Have you ever seen a happier red Basenji?

Chew Toys

There are special rubber chew toys that you can put dog toothpaste in. As they play with it, they will actually be cleaning their teeth in the process. This is a more natural way for your Basenji to keep their teeth clean.

Dental Chew Sticks

There are products available on the market that are meant to mimic sticks which dogs naturally like to chew on. They are chewable and help keep your dog’s teeth clean.

GREENIES Original Regular Natural Dog Dental Care Chews Oral Health Dog Treats, 36 oz. Pack (36 Treats)
  • Contains one (1) 36 ounce 36-count pack of Greenies Original Regular Size Natural Dental Dog Treats; Natural Dog Treats Plus Vitamins, Minerals and Other Nutrients for medium dogs
  • The unique texture of Greenies Dog Chews cleans down to the gumline to fight plaque and tartar and freshen bad dog breath
  • Greenies Treats for Dogs are veterinarian recommended and accepted by the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council)
  • Treat your dog fantastically with the great taste of Greenies Original Dental Treats
  • Greenies Dog Treats are made with natural, easy-to-digest ingredients and are nutritionally complete
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08/01/2023 11:23 am GMT

Visit the Vet

As you have seen from this article, bad breath can actually be caused by several different factors ranging from simple all the way to life threatening. Even if you manage to diagnose a particular issue, a visit to the vet will always do more good than harm.

There may be and underlying, deeper problem which you need to address that may not be evident. A vet will be able to spot these quickly and take the right corrective action.

Having regular visits to the vet to have your Basenji’s teeth clean as well will go a long way in keeping their teeth and mouth healthy.