Why does my pet have bad breath?

The Hard Truth about Pet Dental Disease

This is going to be a hard read for you. The answer to this question is not pretty…..at all. The most likely reason for this is that your pet has periodontal disease. Meaning that there is inflammation and/or infection of your pets teeth and gums. This can be mild and easily treated with a routine dental scaling and polishing with your veterinarian, or it can be severe and require multiple tooth extractions and antibiotics. Regardless, BAD BREATH IS NOT NORMAL. If breath is smelly, it is time to take a quick look in the mouth and figure out why and what needs to be done.




Above there are pictures of normal cat and dog mouths as well as animals in the various stages of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is progressive. The only way to prevent this is with at home dental care. The most effective way to care for you pets teeth is brushing. Brushing at home with a pet safe toothpaste, never with fluoride, daily is the gold standard. Dental chews, water additives, and special dental health diets are also effective (although not near as effective as brushing) to reduce plaque and prevent periodontal disease. Plaque is the slimy substance on teeth that accumulates in between tooth brushing. If this plaque isn’t brushed away, it mixes with minerals and bacteria in our saliva and our pets saliva and becomes ADHERED to the tooth creating TARTAR. Once tartar has accumulated, it is very hard to remove and usually has to be removed by scaling. Your dental hygienist does this every 6 months and we do this to your pets teeth when you schedule a “dental”.

The Benefits Outweigh the Risks

A lot of people do not want to do dental scalings because anesthesia is required. However, it is usually a quick procedure and labwork is done prior to anesthesia to make sure your pet is healthy. The thing that is important to remember is every time this procedure is put off, the periodontal disease gets worse. Eventually, when the pets teeth are cleaned it with be a much longer and more involved procedure.( Not to mention more expensive) You would have really been better off to have done it earlier.

There are some scary things that can happen when periodontal disease goes untreated. Bacterial endocarditis is when the infection in your pets mouth travels to the vales of the heart and damages them causing a heart murmur and subsequent heart disease. The bacteria can also spread to the kidneys and liver causing damage. Animals can lose teeth and have infections in their sinus cavities as well as endure fractures of their jaws from the bone weakening from infection. Many times infected canines lead to chronic nose bleeds. Its a lot more than bad breath at this point, and it is all preventable.

.   It is always so sad when people put off dental cleanings and then the pet finally is treated. The owners will tell me, Wow, I had no idea how this was affected my dog. Now she/he acts like a puppy again! Inevitably, they wish they had done it sooner. Even with multiple teeth extractions, dogs recover well and eat well, usually better than before. The infected teeth are not usually very functional anyway so extracting them isn’t detrimental to the dog or cat. Pain medication and soft foods can be used during the recovery period.

February is pet dental health month nationwide and many clinics offer promotions to encourage you to get your pets teeth cleaned. Please consider having a dental exam done on your pet and making that appointment you have been putting off. Your furbaby will thank you.

Wag More, Bark Less,

Dr. Macie

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