July 25, 2008

Dog Breath

Other Causes of Bad Breath
Immature pets that are in the process of shedding their “baby” teeth often drool and have bad breath. This is a transient problem. Some times it is accompanied by fever. Brushing these pets’ mouths with a dilute baking soda solution gives them relief and minimizes the odor.  If the pet is hesitant or fight too much during brushing, try giving them a chewable to treat like pig ears to help get rid of some of the tartar.

In older pets, disease of the kidneys and liver often affect the mouth. These pets are often thin and frail. When I suspect that a pet with halitosis has major organ failure I run diagnostic liver enzyme levels as well as blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels to check kidney function. Pets with organ damage require extra special care when tending to their teeth. Anesthesia during dental prophylaxis must be administered lightly and with special care. Often I place these pets on antibiotics after I clean their teeth as well as on special diets engineered to help failing organs.

When I see young cats with strong breaths and dental disease I screen them for feline leukemia as well as feline immunodifficiency disease (feline aids). When they are negative for these diseases, they often have resorptive dental disease in which deep cavities form in many teeth simultaneously for no apparent reason. In resorptive dental disease, the roots of the canine teeth are often exposed. Often incisor teeth in these cats drop out for no apparent reason. It is unclear if these cats are born with soft susceptible teeth or if another undescribed form of dental disease is present. Cleaning the teeth of cats with resorptive dental disease is not very effective. Eventually, these teeth need to be extracted. When this is done these cats go on to lead happy and healthy lives.

Problems Associated With Tooth and Gum Disease
As kidney and liver disease can lead to dental disease; dental disease can lead to disease of the kidney and liver. Tartar accumulation around the teeth allows harmful bacteria to proliferate. These bacteria occasionally break loose and enter the pet’s circulation. Once in the blood stream, they lodge in crevices with the kidneys and liver and on the valves of the heart. Liver inflammation as well as scarred, poorly functioning kidneys are the result of bacteria lodging in these organs. When the heart valves are attacked by bacteria they shrink and scar causing blood to flow in the wrong direction. This is why it is common for dogs and cats with severe dental disease to have heart murmurs. It is not unusual for these murmurs to go away once the pet’s dental problems are treated.

Dogs and cats with chronic dental problems often drool. This wetness and the infection associated with tooth infections may cause the lips and the skin folds surrounding the lips to become inflamed. Once the teeth are cleaned these problems resolve.

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