July 21, 2008

 

Dog Breath

Tooth and gum problems are the most common medical condition I see in pets. Because bad breath in dogs and cats go hand in hand with other health problems it is best to treat this problem even if the breath is not objectionable to you.

Why does my pet have bad breath?
The most common cause of bad breath is tartar buildup surrounding the teeth. As in people, small particles off food remain in the mouth after eating. These particles decompose creating conditions where oral bacteria thrive. These bacterial grow to form plaque which is a combination of bacteria, mineral and decomposed food. Plaque and associated oral infections give the pet’s breath an objectionable odor. Plaque also clings to the base of teeth causing the gums to become inflamed and recede. Inflamed gums leak blood serum with combines with and increase the amount of plaque. This plaque or calculus is visible as a hard yellowish coating on the outer base of the teeth.

Remarkably, pets with this condition rarely eat less. Early in the disease, the plaque is no more than a thin b rownish or yellowish coating on the sides of the teeth. It is most noticeable on the outer (lateral) surface of the larger molar teeth – the side adjacent to the cheeks and lips. In severe cases the margins where teeth and gums meet become highly inflamed and bleed when they are touched.

For reasons we do not understand, these problems are most severe in toy and smaller breeds of dogs and in purebred cats. Maltese have the highest rate of tooth and gum disease of all breeds.

This buildup of calculus causes the gum margins to recedes past the tooth enamel exposing the softer dentine material that covers the tooth roots. Dentine is much more porous and rougher than enamel and so holds infection in place. Once dentine is exposed periodic tooth care must be done more frequently and the teeth are eventually lost. This is why successful tooth care and good dental hygiene needs to begin early before these processes are advanced. Another great, non-evasive remedy, is giving the dog plenty of chewable dog treats, like lamb ears.  The constant chewing action helps to remove the tarter and plaque that builds up on the dog’s teeth.

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