Why does my dog or cat's breath stink?
Have you ever opened your pet's mouth and been totally shocked at what you see? Pets should have white teeth and nice pink gums. Any amount of tarter on the teeth can cause an odor. Because pets don't brush daily, the teeth develop plaque, a thin coating of bacteria. Plaque builds up over time and leads to dark hard tarter on the teeth. The hard tarter or calculus is bacteria and bacteria smells bad. An excessive amount of tarter also leads to gingivitis or inflammation of the gums, a bright red line of inflammation right above the teeth. Gingivitis and excessive calculus can often lead to tooth loss.
Once tarter appears, the only safe way to remove it is to do an ultrasonic scale and then polish the teeth white again - exactly the same as a dental cleaning with your dentist! Pets are under full anesthesia for the procedure but they are generally able to go home the same day. While asleep, a certified technician will scale and polish each tooth and examine every tooth closely for "pockets". A dental instrument is used to probe each tooth at the gum line making sure there is no sign of gingival recession leading down the root causing a tooth root abscess - ouchy! Long term infected teeth can also lead to liver disease or heart problems, both of which may shorten the life of the pet. Any teeth that show signs of infection are removed. Pets do quite well following dental extractions as their source of pain is gone.
To check your pet's teeth, lift their lips or open their mouth. Look for tarter build up, broken or cracked teeth, and red swollen gums. If the teeth look okay but the gums are red and inflamed there still may be a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Daily or even weekly brushing at home can help slow down the progression of dental disease, and there are special dental treats and water additives that may help. Despite the best home care, there is no substitute to having your pet's teeth examined at their yearly visit by your veterinarian to identify any problems and determine if a dental cleaning is needed. Good oral care is an easy way for you to prevent long term health problems and to keep your pet smiling for years to come!
- Dawn Carter, CVT