Dental Disease in Pets: What’s That Smell?

Written on January 14, 2016 by Dr. Krista Vernaleken Hospital: Bulger Veterinary Hospital

What’s that smell?

It’s Sunday morning. You slowly wake up, snuggled in your warm bed, relishing in the knowledge that you can stay in bed for a few more minutes with no obligations. Just you and your cuddly, sweet dog nestled at your feet. You doze in and out of consciousness for Cat and dog together lying on a white backgrounda few minutes, until you are roused from this Sunday morning bliss by a smell that could only have originated from rotting garbage mixed with poop. You open your eyes and there, in your face, is your dog’s nose.

How can dog breath be so bad? The simple answer is that “dog breath” is actually a sign of disease and infection. It’s morning breath but worse. It’s what your mouth would smell like if you never brushed your teeth.

What is Happening?

Your pets’ teeth are continuously bathed by saliva, as well as bacteria and many other substances (broken down food, hair, and anything else that enters your pet’s mouth). This forms a “biofilm” (commonly called plaque). This is ultimately irritating to the gums, leading to gum inflammation. In a person, we regularly brush away the plaque toIMG_0236 keep it from accumulating. But in many pets, we don’t regularly brush; we just hope that food and toys will brush away some of this plaque. Once it remains on the tooth for a few days, the plaque hardens. Now it’s the icky brown “stuff” on their teeth (commonly called tartar). More plaque attaches to the top of the tartar, leading to more gum inflammation.

Once the gums are inflamed enough, they slowly give up. Like a retreating army, they pull back to avoid contact with the plaque and tartar. It’s not just the gums that retreat – it’s all of the tissues that hold the tooth in place, including the bone. Ultimately, the teeth have nothing more to hold onto and they get loose and fall out.

What Can Be Done?

There is a solution for all of this!IMG_0237 Talk with your veterinarian about home care of your pet’s teeth, as well as what we can do in the office to prevent dental disease.


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