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Pawsome Tails: My pet has bad breath!

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Dental hygiene in pets are an important part of keeping them happy and healthy.

“My pet has bad breath!” This is one of the very common complaints vets hear from pet owners. Bad breath, also known as halitosis, has many causes, but is most often related to dental disease.

Our pets are an integral part of our families; they snuggle up next to us on the couch, sleep with us in our beds, and we even take them with us on holiday. As a result of this close companionship, we notice problems like bad breath much quicker, especially as a pet gets older. As unpleasant as this may be, there is an easy solution to this problem.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease refers to disease of the gums and teeth. Bad breath is the main symptom of this disease and is caused by food and bacteria that collect along the gum lines, which forms plaque. When this plaque is not removed, it forms tartar or calculus, which is a much harder form of plaque and sticks stubbornly to the teeth.

This is partly caused by the continual accumulation of minerals from saliva on top of the plaque on the teeth. This tartar causes irritation of the gums and inflammation, and is referred to as gingivitis.

Symptoms of gingivitis are bad breath and redness of the gums. Over time, if left untreated, there is a loss of connective tissue that attaches the gums to the teeth and the bone that surround the teeth.

If the calculus is not removed, it begins to build up under the gums, separating the gums from the teeth and forming pockets, which encourage further bacterial growth. At this point, the damage becomes irreversible.

Periodontal disease can be very painful, leading to infection, abscesses, loss of teeth, and even bone loss in the jaw. Even worse, periodontal disease can lead to heart disease, and kidney and liver failure.

How does periodontal disease lead to heart disease, and kidney and liver failure?

Bacteria in the mouth of a pet with periodontal disease can be released into their circulatory system and from there travel throughout the body. This bacterium can cause damage to their cardiac tissue and lead to infection of the heart, eventually leading to heart disease. Studies have shown a link between the bacteria originating from oral infections and blockages of coronary arteries.

The liver serves to filter blood and liver enzymes can rise in correlation to periodontal disease, due to the inflammation that is caused when the liver filters blood that has a large bacterial burden. Kidneys in pets that have periodontal disease can also be affected, as the kidneys act as filters in the body that clear out bacteria. The bacteria from periodontal disease may lead to kidney damage and a decrease in renal function.

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It is important to regularly check your pet’s teeth for signs of a build-up of calculus.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease?

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Rubbing or pawing of the mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Red and inflamed gums
  • Bleeding of the gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Puss around a tooth
  • Irritability because of pain
  • Discoloration of the teeth

How is periodontal disease treated?

The initial layer of plaque can be removed by brushing your pet’s teeth, but the harder calculus cannot be removed by simple brushing. Veterinarians can perform dental cleaning of your pet’s teeth in the early stages of periodontal disease. This kind of cleaning is done under general anaesthesia in order to keep your pet calm and relaxed. The procedure generally involves a deep cleaning of your pet’s teeth, scaling, polishing and probing of the gums in order to assess the pre-existing damage to the teeth and gums. Your vet may also want to view X-rays in order to determine whether there may already be extensive bone loss, which may lead to pulling out unstable teeth. A schedule to have your pet’s teeth cleaned on a regular basis may also be recommended and you may be given instructions on how to do weekly cleanings at home.

How do I prevent periodontal disease in my pet?

Dental hygiene

You may not notice signs of periodontal disease in your pet until the condition has deteriorated significantly. It is important to regularly check your pet’s teeth for signs of build-up of calculus. Regular brushing of the teeth and visits to your vet to have the teeth cleaned properly is a sure way to prevent the onset of periodontal disease.


Studies have shown that hard kibbles are better than soft foods, as the grinding action of the food helps in cleaning the teeth.

Chew toys

Any vet or pet shop sells toys that are specifically made to assist in cleaning your pet’s teeth. However, be aware that the wrong toy can do more damage than good. Very hard chew toys, such as dried cow hooves can cause the teeth to break or wear down.

Know your breed

Periodontal disease is more common in smaller dog breeds such as yorkies and poodles; their teeth are often crowded, or they may have extra teeth because of retaining some of their baby teeth. Pugs, bulldogs and boxers are also prone to dental disease, because their teeth are not always well aligned.

Periodontal disease is more common in Oriental shorthair and Siamese cats.


According to research, dental disease affects more than 65 percent of pets older than seven years.

Keep in mind that your pet is unable to communicate a simple complaint like toothache; therefore it is your responsibility to make sure that your pet is in the best of health and pain-free. Don’t be fooled that bad breath is a normal thing for a cat or a dog; this is a symptom of a greater problem; periodontal disease is irreversible.

Source: Comaro Chronicle


Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.