Preventing pet bad breath. Want to know why we don't have to live with pet bead breath or teeth...

Why have pet bad breath and teeth?

It could be your pets teeth. Tooth and gum problems are the most common medical condition in pets and can be the cause of many other health problems if untreated.

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What causes bad breath in pets? What are some causes of pet bad breath and teeth?

The most common cause of bad breath in pets is tartar buildup surrounding the teeth.
Small particles of food remain in the mouth after eating. These particles decompose creating conditions where oral bacteria thrive. The bacteria grow to form plaque - a combination of bacteria, mineral and decomposed food. It is the plaque and associated oral infections that give the pets breath the unpleasant odor.
Plaque also clings to the base of teeth causing the gums to become inflamed and recede. Inflamed gums leak blood serum that combines with and increases the amount of plaque. This plaque or calculus is visible as a hard yellowish coating on the outer base of the teeth.
Pets with this condition rarely eat less.

Early in the disease, the plaque is no more than a thin brown or yellow coating on the sides of the teeth. It is most noticeable on the outer surface of the larger molar teeth. In severe cases the margins where teeth and gums meet become highly inflamed and bleed when they are touched.

The problem of pet bad breath are most severe in toy and smaller breed dogs and in purebred cats. Maltese have the highest rate of tooth and gum disease of all breeds.

This buildup of calculus causes the gum margins to recede past the tooth enamel exposing the softer material that covers the tooth roots. Dentine is much more porous and rougher than enamel and holds infection in place. Once dentine is exposed periodic tooth care must be done more frequently and the teeth are eventually lost. For this reason, tooth care and good dental hygiene needs to begin early.

Other causes of bad breath in dogs and many other pets

Young pets that are in the process of loosing their baby teeth often drool and have "pet bad breath". Sometimes this is accompanied by fever. Brushing the pets' mouth with diluted baking soda solution gives them relief and minimizes the odor.

In older pets, disease of the kidneys and liver often affect the mouth. These pets are often thin and frail. When it is suspected that a pet with bad breath has major organ failure, a diagnostic liver enzyme levels as well as blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels, and kidney function should be checked.

Pets with organ damage require extra special care when tending to their teeth. Anesthesia during a dental must be administered lightly and with special care. Often I place these pets on antibiotics after I clean their teeth as well as on special diets engineered to help failing organs.

When young cats have strong breath odor and dental disease, they are screened for feline leukemia as well as feline immunodifficiency disease (feline aids). If they are negative for these diseases, they often have resorptive dental disease in which deep cavities form in many teeth simultaneously for no apparent reason. In resorptive dental disease, the roots of the canine teeth are often exposed. Often incisor teeth in these cats drop out for no apparent reason. It is unclear if these cats are born with soft susceptible teeth or if another undescribed form of dental disease is present. Cleaning the teeth of cats with resorptive dental disease is not very effective. Eventually, these teeth need to be extracted. When this is done these cats go on to lead happy and healthy lives.

Problems associated with tooth and gum disease

Just as kidney and liver disease can lead to dental disease; dental disease can lead to disease of the kidney and liver.

Tartar accumulation around the teeth allows harmful bacteria to grow. These bacteria occasionally break loose and enter the pets circulation system. Once in the blood stream, they lodge in crevices with the kidneys and liver and on the valves of the heart. Liver inflammation as well as scarred, poorly functioning kidneys are the result of bacteria lodging in these organs. When the heart valves are attacked by bacteria they shrink and scar, causing blood to flow in the wrong direction. This is why it is common for dogs and cats with severe dental disease to have heart murmurs. It is not unusual for these murmurs to go away once the pets dental problems are treated.

Dogs and cats with chronic dental problems often drool. This wetness and the infection associated with tooth infections may cause the lips and the skin folds surrounding the lips to become inflamed. Once the teeth are cleaned these problems go away.

Treatment of Bad Breath in Dogs and Other Pets

  • Yearly checkups
    • Even if you do not give yearly vaccinations, it is wise to take your pet to a veterinarian for an annual checkup that includes a dental exam. The older your pet is the more important early exams become.
  • Diet
    • To slow the formation of plaque, feed your pet a quality name brand dry commercial pet food. The crunchy biscuits help massage gums and wear away tartar. Some brands market dental diets engineered to minimize plaque and massage the gums. Other brands incorporate enzymes to dissolve plaque.
    • One of the worst things you can do for your pets teeth is to feed canned diets. The build up of plaque in pets that are fed soft, canned diets is very rapid.
  • Treats
    • Feeding chewy treats, bones, rawhide, nylon bones and treats impregnated with enzymes minimizes dental plaque. Dog biscuits are of no value in preventing tartar buildup.
    • If you give your pet real bones, be sure they are heavy shin and shank bones. Dogs and cats do better chewing on bones if they start when they are puppies and kittens
    • Never give your pet cooked chicken bones.
  • Brushing teeth
    • Brushing your pets teeth is the most important thing you can to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Use a childs toothbrush and meat or malt favored toothpaste that is designed for animals. Use a very small amount of toothpaste - it is the brushing that is important - and concentrate on the gum margins.
    • If you start when your pet is a puppy or kitten, the pet will not dislike the procedure. Even older pets learn to accept the toothbrush.
  • Mouth wash and sprays
    • Veterinary hospitals and pet supply outlets sell chlorhexidine sprays and mouthwashes that contain enzymes that dissolve plaque and help reduce bacteria. They are not nearly as effective as brushing the teeth but are better than no home care.
  • Manual tartar removal
    • If your pet has a placid temperament, it is not difficult to scrap the tartar from the teeth and clean under the margins of the gums at home. Many pet professionals perform excellent tooth cleaning at home eliminating the need to have their pet anesthetized at a veterinary clinic. Your veterinarian or a pet supply catalog is a good source for a tartar-scraping tool. The best ones are double ended, one end suitable for the right and the other for the left hand side of the mouth.
  • Ultrasonic cleaning
    • Because the whine of the ultrasonic machine is distressing to most animals, this procedure is performed with general anesthetic or heavy tranquilization. Since it is often older patients, many of whom have heart disease that need the procedure, they are kept under very light anesthetic.
  • Removal of diseased teeth
    • Once the ligaments that fasten teeth to the bone of the jaw have been damaged by periodontal disease, ultrasonic cleaning will not heal them.
    • Teeth that are mildly loose, can sometimes be saved by cleaning and several weeks of doxycycline therapy either with oral tablets or oral patches.
    • Severely loose teeth are best removed.
    • Dogs and cats do very well with few remaining teeth. Problems are more in the minds of owners due to fear than to any difficulties experienced by the pets.
  • Tooth restorations
    • Some veterinarians and dentists specialize in crowns for damaged pet teeth. Other than for attack dogs, this is a purely cosmetic procedure for the owner, not the pet.