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BAD BREATH

Bad Breath

Foul-smelling breath can mean big trouble for your pooch. Heres how to make sure your doggy is free of dental disease.

Are you avoiding kisses and nuzzles from your pup because his morning breath lasts from morning to night? Strong breath odor is not normal and can indicate some serious problems.

Causes
The most common cause of bad breath in pets is dental disease. The bacteria associated with tartar buildup on the teeth create that all-too-familiar odor. Tartar is a hard yellow or brown buildup on the teeth, often near the gum line. Other problems, such as gum disease, tooth abscesses, mouth tumors, and ulcers, or a foreign object stuck in the teeth, can also bring on bad breath.

If your pets breath smells strangely sweet, ammonia-like, or more like a sewer, an underlying illness could be the cause. Diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, and intestinal obstruction each have distinct breath odors, but these diseases are also usually associated with other symptoms, such as lethargy, appetite loss, and vomiting.

If your not-too-picky pooch snacks on animal waste or licks at his anal area, his breath will likely smell like an outhouse. This odor is usually most noticeable right after the offending event, but his breath will improve after he eats his dog food or drinks water.

Dogs with large floppy lips, such as cocker spaniels, bulldogs, and Saint Bernards, can develop foul-smelling mouths from a condition called lip fold pyoderma. Saliva, food, and bacteria accumulate in the small creases of the mouth and can lead to infection.

What You Can Do at Home
Carefully peek inside your pets mouth to look for tartar buildup or any obvious abnormalities, such as swelling or redness, which would indicate an abscess, foreign object, or broken tooth. If your pet has minimal tartar and his gums are not tender or bleeding, its time to start a bedtime brushing routine.

Start tooth brushing slowly, preferably with just water and a small rag, a piece of gauze, or even your finger. Gently rub all surfaces of the teeth. As your pup gets used to you poking around in his mouth, you can begin using a pet- or child-size toothbrush.

Use only toothpaste made for pets human toothpaste can cause stomach upset. If you use a water pick, keep the pressure low. Ideally, you should brush your pets teeth every day, but brushing at least twice a week will improve his breath and keep his teeth white.

Youll find many treats and chews designed to help keep your pets teeth in tip-top shape. Certain dog foods also help control tartar. Regular brushing is the most effective way to keep teeth clean, but these other products are good options for uncooperative pets.

If your has the disgusting but not uncommon habit of eating feces, you can deter him with products that make the feces less appetizing. Scoop the poop from the backyard daily and make sure the cat's box is out of Fidos reach. Eating animal waste can be a hard habit to break, and you may need your veterinarians help.

If your pet is licking his rear end, his anal sacs may be impacted. You can learn to empty the sacs at home.

If the offending odor is emanating from your dogs loose lips, clean them, especially the skin folds, once a day with a clean washcloth and warm water or an antibacterial oral rinse containing the ingredient chlorhexidene.

When to Call the Veterinarian
If your pet has bleeding gums, tartar buildup, or obvious mouth pain, you should call your veterinarian. Any additional symptoms, such as appetite loss, lethargy, or vomiting, are cause for an immediate examination.

If brushing your pets teeth at home doesnt improve the bad breath, he should be examined. The tartar buildup may be so heavy that brushing alone wont remove it, or your pet may have another health problem. Your veterinarian can also help relieve anal sac problems you cant remedy at home.

What the Veterinarian Will Do
Your veterinarian will examine your pets mouth to find the source of the odor. Sedation and X-rays may be needed if the doctor suspects severe dental disease. Your pet will require a more involved evaluation, including blood and urine tests and X-rays, to diagnose such conditions as diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, or a gastrointestinal problem.

To correct tartar buildup, your pet will need a professional dental cleaning. The veterinarian will anesthetize your pet to thoroughly clean and polish his teeth. In addition, your pet may need surgery for gum disease or removal of abscessed or broken teeth. If an infection is detected, your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic.

In advanced cases of lip fold pyoderma, your veterinarian will clip and thoroughly clean the area and prescribe antibiotics. And youll need to diligently keep your poochs lips clean at home. Your veterinarian can treat recurring problems by surgically reducing the skin folds.

For dogs with anal sac problems, the veterinarian will determine if theyre impacted or infected and treat them accordingly.

Your veterinarian can give you additional advice on how to keep your pets breath smelling fresh. And then youll welcome your poochs smooches.