Bad breath is not normal, and it is not just “something you have to put up” with if you have a pet. Bad breath is usually a sign of oral disease—approximately 70-80% of pets have signs of oral disease by age 3.
From Plaque to Tartar to Periodontal Disease
Plaque, a sticky “bio film” that is full of bacteria, forms daily on your pet’s teeth—just as it does on human teeth. Plaque that is not removed will turn into tartar within a few days.
Tartar is a hard calculus comprised of minerals and bacteria that adheres to the tooth’s surface, irritates the gums, and causes infection. Tartar is also deposited underneath the surface of the gums, where it gradually causes periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is an infection hallmarked by inflamed gums. This disease damages the tissue and bones that support the teeth, causing teeth to lose their attachments and eventually to fall out. Inflamed gums allow the bacteria in the mouth to gain access to the entire body’s circulation system, which can lead to damage of a dog or cat’s internal organs (such as the liver, kidneys, and heart), as well as an overall / systemic inflammation which has been linked to many different diseases in our pets.
Pets can also break teeth by chewing on hard items like bones, rocks, hard toys, hooves and antlers, cages, or by accidents and trauma. Pets don’t always let us know when they have fractured teeth, but they experience the pain just as we do. Left untreated, fractured teeth that have pulp cavity exposure (where the nerve and vessel lie), allow bacteria to gain access to the root and the tooth can become abscessed, leading to more pain and disease.
Cats are also known for developing resorptive lesions. These lesions eat away at the teeth like a cavity does to human teeth, but they are not caused by decay, and they cannot be repaired. The affected tooth will become painful and the only solution is to extract the tooth.
How to Prevent Bad Breath and Periodontal Disease in Your Pet
Luckily, bad breath and oral disease are preventable. Just as you need to do for your own teeth, regular prevention is the key to healthy teeth that last a lifetime. If tartar is allowed to build up and periodontal disease develops, changes may have occurred that cannot be reversed.
Start by checking your pet’s teeth today. Ask your veterinarian for tips on how to start home dental care for your pet, and whether a professional cleaning is needed.
Bothell Pet Hospital has recently acquired a state of the art dental x-ray machine that allows the doctors to visualize in detail what is going on beneath the gum line, just like your dentist does for you. This will allow better evaluation of a tooth’s health and better care for your pet’s teeth!
More Pet Dental Care Tips:
- Consider daily brushing using pet toothpaste that is safe AND flavored to make the process less difficult.
- Consider giving your dog Virbac’s C.E.T. strips to chew.
- Consider Hill’s Prescription T/D diet—featuring large chews with a unique texture that helps reduce plaque, tartar and stains (we called these large kibble “cookies” in our house and they became a big hit).
Regular home care, coupled with regular professional cleaning by your veterinarian, can help you say goodbye to bad breath while keeping your pets’ teeth healthy.