Bad breath (halitosis) in cats and dogs is a common complaint from pet owners. Bad breath may be a result of dental disease, an oral tumor, a foreign body or even systemic health problems like kidney disease or diabetes.

When bad breath is from dental disease, it is typically caused by bacteria that grow in conjunction with the build-up of plaque, a sticky deposit on teeth where bacteria proliferate on the tooth. When it is not removed from the tooth through routine brushing or chewing dry food, calcium and other minerals will bind to it and form dental calculus. Formation of this calculus encourages bacteria to invade the deeper tissues around the tooth, including the gums and ligaments that hold the tooth in place. As bacteria proliferate, the odor from the tooth worsens.

Halitosis related to dental disease is an indication that a professional dental cleaning should be performed. Complete evaluation of 100% of each tooth is accomplished by probing the periodontal pockets around each tooth. The visible tooth comprises only 30-50% of the entire tooth. The remainder of the tooth is the root, which is covered by gingival and gum tissue. After a complete evaluation of each tooth is performed by the doctor, the best options for treatment can be determined.

It is important to realize that your veterinarian can only evaluate each tooth and perform proper cleaning while your pet is under general anesthesia. While your pet is asleep, the veterinarian and technicians will do a complete dental examination, remove dental calculi, perform dental scaling and then polish all surfaces.

The majority of dental diseases can be prevented through dental prophylaxis by your vet once a year and tooth brushing (by you) three times a week at home.

When dental or oral disease is ruled out as the source of bad breath, further investigation is warranted. Your veterinarian may recommend blood work or other tests to check for systemic or autoimmune diseases.

October is Dental Health Month at Arlington Animal Hospital. Call us to get information about our special discounts.

Have a fabulous fall!
Dr. Bonnie