By Melodie Veldhuizen
Most cat and dog lovers have noted that their animal friends have bad breath. You can do something about it, if you know what the cause is. Some of the causes can be treated and even preventd, while others can only be treated at great cost.
Pica. This is an eating disorder where animals, especially dogs, will eat anything they see that is not food, such as faeces, stones, ground, hair, paint and even cloth. This can cause serious health problems, such as intestinal sores, blockage of the intestines or irritation of the digestive tract. You may note one of the following symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea or loose stool, or chronic bad breath.
Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and kidney failure. Both of these conditions are accompanied by a srtronger urge to urinate, a bigger need for water, and often weight loss too. In the case of diabetes the animal’s breath will smell sweet (due to excessive sugar in the blood), sour (due to an increase in bacterial growth), or mouldy (due to yeast growing in the mouth. In the case of kidney failure the breath will have a metallic smell (due to a build-up of toxins and waste products not filtered by the kidneys).
Diseases of the respiratory tract, sinusitis, nose infections and nose tumours. This is caused by the formation of puss (dead and decaying white-blood cells, bacteria and blood) in the nose, which drips into the throat.
Diseases of the digestive tract. This is caused by diseases of the oesophagus (where the oesophagus swells so that food accumulate in it) or ongoing vomiting (due to a blockage of the intestines, gastritis, kidney or liver disease). Infections of the mouth or lip folds (especially in spaniels) could also be the cause.
Tooth ailments are the most common cause of bad breath in pets. Unless the animals’ teeth are brushed regularly, most dogs and cats (but not all of them) will develop tartar and plaque on their teeth. Apart from bad breath tooth and gum problems could lead to other more serious diseases. Gingivitis is a risk factor for cardiac disease and kidney failure because bacteria can easily get into the blood stream. In more serious cases the animal could even get septicaemia or go into septic shock. A dog with serious gingivitis could refuse to eat and die of hunger. By the time the disease is diagnosed nothing can be done any more to save the affected teeth.
How can you determine the cause of the problem?
If you are concerned about your pet’s chronic bad breath, go and see a veterinarian, who will determine the cause by means of blood tests, urine tests, X-rays or even a visual examination.
Depending on the diagnosis the veterinarian will prescribe suitable treatment or medication. Most diseases can be treated if they are diagnosed in time.
Prevention is the best cure
Your pet’s dental care is essential to its total health.
What does good dental care mean?
Regularly brush its teeth and thoroughly examine the teeth and gums from time to time. And last but not least, a healthy diet. Make your animal used to having its teeth brushed from a young age. Do not use tooth paste intended for humans. The foam may unnerve it and also upset its stomach. There are toothpastes specially developed for animals with a taste that they like and that is also safer for them. Depending on the size of your animal’s teeth and mouth, you can use an ordinary toothbrush. Toothbrushes are available that fit around one’s finger to facilitate the process. Ask your veterinarian for advice. Ask him to demonstrate the process. Brush at least once a week, but once a day is actually better.
Is there an alternative?
There are special dog foods and treats on the market that can reduce tartar and plaque and prevent tooth diseases and gingivitis.
Consult your veterinarian for different possibilities.