Bad breath? No laughing matter.

Halitosis (bad breath) in cats and dogs is nothing to ignore.  It is most often associated with plaque and tartar on the teeth.  This leads to periodontal and endodontal disease (inflamed/infected gum tissue and cavities and abscessed teeth.  Unlike us, our animals can not tell us they have a tooth bothering them until it is advanced to a serious stage and can cost the loss of the tooth, so regular home examination of your pets mouth and teeth are important to dental health.

In addition to the health of the mouth, periodontal disease is a primary source of bacteria that invades the blood stream.  The mouth has a very rich blood supply so infections of the teeth and gums can spread via the blood to infect other areas of the body including the heart, kidney and liver.  Animals (and people) do get infections inside their heart from infections in their mouth.  Bacterial kidney and bladder infections can arise from the infection in the mouth as can bacterial hepatitis.

One of the best precautions you can do for your pet is to brush its teeth.  If your pet won’t allow the tooth brushing you can at least swab the tooth paste into the cheeks of the mouth with a cotton swab.  This will mix with their saliva and the enzymatic action of pet tooth paste breaks down the bacteria and plaque that form tartar.  Once or twice a week application of the pet tooth paste often makes a huge difference in the health of the mouth and teeth.  Do not use human tooth paste as it contains fluoride and should not be swallowed.  Also, after you swab the tooth paste into the cheeks, do not feed or water your pet for at least 30 minutes.  This will allow the enzymes a chance to work before your pet rinses it with drinking water or eating food.

Another area of concern for dental health is fractured teeth.  I see a lot of teeth broken due to chewing or nyla bones and hard, natural bones.  These are often harder than the teeth and when the pet chews on these tooth fractures are often a common result.  I recently saw a young, 4 year old dog that had 3 fractured teeth that led to abscessation (infection) of the adjacent teeth which required extraction of 13 teeth total!  This dog had regular access to nyla bones and had broken many of its teeth.

Bad breath is not always associated with tooth problems.  It can show up in cases of kidney failure, lung infections, lodged foreign material in the mouth,  and certain cancers.  So, never ignore or tolerate “bad breath” in your pet.  It is not normal and is usually an indication of more serious disease that, when detected early, can generally be treated and provide a higher quality of life for your pet and add years to the time you are able to enjoy your pet.