My Dog’s Breath Smell Horrible! – Dental Disease in Pets

Linnie smiles - fights dog's breathDog’s breath. Even in the nicest of canines, it can reek like a cesspool of sewer water. Okay, okay. If I’m being quite honest, some felines (myself excluded, of course) can have a bit of stink-mouth as well. So what gives? And what can be done about it?

In honor of National Pet Dental Month, here is a list of the top five actions to take if your pet has potty breath.

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5.) Make Sure It’s Just the Teeth

By the time a dog or cat is three years old, they are very likely to have some evidence of periodontal disease. However, dental problems aren’t the only cause of horrible halitosis. If your fur friend has a noticeable odor, schedule an examination with your veterinarian. Other underlying problems could be the culprit. This can include more serious oral problems such as an abscess, injury, virus, foreign body, stomatits, or even cancer. Some gastrointestinal problems, metabolic problems (kidneys, diabetes, etc.), or even toxicities can cause an offensive oral odor. Or (as in the case of my shameful canine companions) eating poop/”kitty crunchers” never helped a dog’s breath, either.

4.) Oral Rinses May or May Not Help

Some people swear by oral rinses and water additives, but there’s honestly not that much evidence that they do a whole lot of good. They may mask the odor of the dog’s breath. Heck, they may not do anything at all. As of today, there is only one water additive that gets the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval. That is the Healthymouth water additive. There is some evidence to suggest that it reduces plaque buildup. Maybe it will help, or maybe you’ll just have expensive water. But, if you absolutely have no other choice, give it a go! (And note that I don’t get anything for recommending that company – it’s just the best, according to the VOHC).

3.) Dental Chews Have Some Benefit

Every animal’s favorite way to address dental health! There are several chews and treats that are VOHC approved for both dogs and cats. In certain situations, a veterinarian may even prescribe a special food to help slow the progression of periodontal disease.

Based on VOHC studies, some of the food and treats help reduce tartar while some help with both plaque and tartar buildup. Using the chews daily, according to label instructions, can significantly improve dental health. But food or treats do not replace regular brushing. Also, if you’re giving treats every day, don’t forget to reduce the calories from food. You don’t want fat furry friends with a pretty smile!

The VOHC lists several canine options for dental treats. Favorites at our house include VeggieDent ChewsMinties and GREENIES . As with all things in life, feline choices are (sigh) more limited. These are my personal favorites: FELINE GREENIES,  and Pro Plan Dental Crunch  treats.

2.) Brushing is the Best!

How often do you brush your own teeth? And how often do you chew on bugs, sticks, or (ahem) your nether regions? Perhaps pet oral care may deserve a little more attention, doncha think? If your teeth need brushing every day, what about your dear friends that think the toilet is a giant, magic water bowl? I rest my case.

So many people think their pets would never allow a tooth brushing. This is completely untrue. Just as every human must be trained to live with animals, so must every animal be trained to comply with a human’s requests. The American Veterinary Medical Association created an excellent video demonstrating how to brush your pet’s teeth. Check it out here!

Daily brushing is best. Two to three times a week will also yield excellent results. Make sure to use a Soft Bristle Toothbrush . Also, never use human toothpaste on pets. We like the VOHC recommended CET Toothpaste.

1.) Schedule Regular Exams and Dental Cleanings 

No matter what the question, the number 1 answer is always the same. Have your pet examined by a veterinarian. In younger, healthy animals, annual examinations are usually sufficient. But because critters age much more quickly than humans, we need more frequent check-ups. Pets with underlying medical conditions or all animals over seven years old will need more frequent exams.Because many factors (environment/home care and genetics) play a huge role in the development of dental disease, the frequency of professional dental cleanings can vary widely.

Some owners express concerns about anesthetizing their fur friends for a dental cleaning. While all medications or procedures have some risk (isn’t that why you wear seat belts???), every action is taken by the vet to minimize those risks. Be open and discuss any concerns with the veterinarian. In most cases, the risks to the animal’s quality of life or health far outweigh the minor risk associated with having a professional dental cleaning performed.

For proper dental cleanings, the animal will need to be anesthetized. Sometimes x-rays are taken. Each tooth is probed and examined carefully for evidence of disease. The teeth are cleaned with a dental scaler and polished after. The procedure is very similar to the human experience at the dentist’s office. Occasionally a tooth will have to be pulled. In certain situations, animals may require advanced dental care and treatments. Board certified veterinary dentists are available by referral from the regular veterinarian.

It’s Not Just Rotten Dog’s Breath

So what’s the big deal about smelly dog’s breath? Unfortunately, it can be more than just a little halitosis. Periodontal disease can lead to gum irritation, dental pain, weight loss, tooth loss, and abscess formation. Some cats can also develop severe stomatitis and resorptive lesions of the teeth. Bacteria surrounding the teeth and the roots can escape, allowing bacteria to enter the bloodstream. This bacteria can have serious health consequences, leading to heart, kidney, or liver damage. Sounds awful, right?

Proper preventative care and regular veterinary care can help to prevent some of the serious consequences of periodontal disease. It may take a little effort at first, but in the long run (and when you are getting sweet furry kisses), it will be very well worth it!

Besides, the next time someone wants you to go out when you really don’t want to, you can always just say, “I can’t. I have to stay home and brush my pet’s teeth.”

Until next time… Keeping Pebbles Strong


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