Stinky Breath - How to Help your Pet have Healthier Teeth
Tuna breath, doggie breath, stinky breath - these are some of the various names we hear in the office for bad breath in pets. We may sort of expect this, but it is not completely normal. Keeping your pet's teeth healthy is not only more pleasant for you, but better health for them.
Since a pet cannot brush their teeth, it is easy for plaque and tartar to build up. How much tartar builds up depends on the type of food your pet eats, how much chewing on hard matierials they do and the pet's own predisposition to building up tartar. Many of the dry pet foods have dental crystals in them to minimize tartar buildup. Rawhides, greenies and tug ropes also help to decrease tartar. Brushing your pet's teeth is one of the best ways to combat stinky breath. Small tooth brushes are available as well as flavored tooth paste for pets. For toy dogs and cats, a cotton tipped Qtip is a good way to clean the teeth. Do not use human tooth paste as some of the ingredients can be harmful to pets. Reward your pet as you have them sit on your lap, or where ever you brush the teeth. Do only a few teeth at a time. Visit our website for a more complete explanation and photos of tooth brushing. We also have a free handout available for anyone at our clinic.
As tartar builds up, infection will start to creep under the gums and create periodontal disease. This infection can spread to the bone, and other vital organs. This is the point where the breath starts to stink. It is important to discuss treatment for this through with your veterinarian. Since our patients can not hold their mouth open for dental cleaning, and treatment, sedation is necessary. Blood tests, occasionally antibiotics other medications may be needed to insure the best treatment of your pet's teeth. Anesthesia is much safer than in the past, even for older pets, now that veterinarians also have safer anesthetic agents and know more about complete care.
Dogs often break teeth because they chew on many things. Small breaks may not expose pulp or cause much damage, but larger breaks can cause pain and problems. It is hard to know when your pet has broken a tooth, unless they bleed. Other signs of a broken tooth are that your pet may not eat well one day, paw at the mouth or drool more than usual. If your pet is showing any of these signs, please have a veterinarian examine them at once.
Usually problem teeth cause chronic low level pain, not sudden harsh pain. You may not see your pet eat any differently, or avoid play. They may be eating on the other side of their mouth, or just avoiding certain toys they would pick up. Occasionally the pain of the mouth makes a pet dislike being touched on the head or face. We may see some pets be aggressive generally due to the mouth pain - this is irritable aggression. When the problem teeth are dealt with and the pain is gone, the grouchiness also goes.
Learn more about pet dental health through our pet library and health articles. Other good sources are Hills and the American Veterinary Dental College.
- written by Dr. Sally Foote