Whole Dog Journal's Blog January 20, 2015

Bad Breath is Significant

Posted at 09:17AM - Comments: (16)

I met a small dog recently who had breath that could knock you over. Because I’ve had small dogs before, I knew enough to lift her lip and take a peek at her teeth. Even so, I was shocked, though not surprised, by the appearance of her teeth. That is, you could barely SEE white tooth material, for the accumulation of hard calculus ­ tartar ­ on her teeth. Her gums were inflamed and swollen, too.

It apparently didn’t occur to anyone who knew or handled the dog that her bad breath wasn’t some sort of character flaw, it was an actual health problem exacerbated by neglect. Rather, she was criticized as a “fussy eater.” I imagine I’d be a fussy eater, too, if I was in excruciating pain from infected gums.

Small dogs, especially the ones with crowded mouths (overlapping teeth) or underbites or overbites that keep the mouth partially open at all times, are prone to more dental disease and accelerated accumulation of dental plaque. Daily brushing is highly recommended ­ and annual exams and frequent veterinary cleaning is critical to prevent the relatively fast development of such a serious tartar build-up (the dog I’m describing is only four years old!).

She’s since had her teeth cleaned ­ and eight of them had to be extracted. She’ll receive pain meds for 4 days and antibiotics for 10. Her breath is now completely inoffensive, and she’s eating anything offered to her.

The experience made me check my own dogs’ mouths. Both of my dogs are 6 1/2 years old. Tito the Chihuahua has had one dental cleaning already, about two years ago. His breath is not at all bad, and his teeth look pretty good. I was surprised (when I took a whiff ) that my big dog’s breath is not as fresh as I expected it to be, and when I lifted his lips to examine his teeth, I saw no tartar at all . . . on ONE side of his mouth! On the other, I found a rather large chunk of tartar on one of his upper molars. I think of myself as being fairly aware of what’s going on with my dogs’ health, and completely missed this! He was examined by a veterinarian recently, too, for an annual health checkup, and she hasn’t spotted it, either. I’ll be taking him back in for a further exam – and likely, a cleaning -- this week.

How often do you check your dog’s teeth? Make sure you look at the ones all the way in the back, too.


Comments (16)

My Dobie had absolutely beautiful teeth!,,, groomed once weekly. Anytime he went anywhere, people commented on how white and shiny they were. Any time he had a Vet. visit,same comments. No bad breath on my boy.

Posted by: KAr. | February 8, 2015 9:15 PM    Report this comment

I used to be able to get dental cleaning done for a reasonable price. My dogs were just "twi-lighted" and teeth were cleaned. It cost a fraction of what it does today. I paid $500 last year for a cleaning. Ridiculous. I use Petzlife gel and it works great to keep plaque away. You can get it on Amazon for far less than buying it in a petstore.

Posted by: Doglover2 | January 22, 2015 8:21 PM    Report this comment

I know of several dogs that died following teeth cleaning where NSAID's such as Rimadyl were administered following the cleaning. NSAID's are not FDA approved safe for dental procedures and pet owners should be advised of the risks associated with NSAID's, including death.

Posted by: Kellygirl302 | January 21, 2015 2:09 PM    Report this comment

there are new ways without anesthesia...ask your vet

Posted by: Ruaga | January 21, 2015 10:24 AM    Report this comment

Although I work at a natural pet food store, it is a customer's recommendation I'd like to share.
Our customer adopted a neglected Australian shepherd ~2yrs ago; Casey's coat & teeth were a mess. After an initial 2 baths (w/lots of grooming), an improved diet, and a daily dose of 'Ark Natural Brushless Toothpaste' (a hard, soy-free dental chew w/toothpaste inside), my customer says Casey's teeth and breath are excellent. It has take a while but all the tartar build-up is gone.
Casey may be hard of hearing and developing cataracts, but her nose works just fine and her food 'picky-ness' has dissipated.

Posted by: als | January 21, 2015 8:50 AM    Report this comment

The best thing I've come across to clean dogs' teeth is feeding green tripe.
Unfortunately, I have family members who gag at the smell (it's not that bad) so I have to rely on brushing, which I do religiously because I had a dog who lived to be 15 but had rotten teeth (literally) at the end of her life. My only excuse is that this was years ago, before we knew you should brush pets' teeth - but I still feel really, really bad about it. If my current dog ever needs a teeth cleaning under general anesthesia, I'll take that chance.

Posted by: pl | January 20, 2015 10:08 PM    Report this comment

I inherited a 5 year old cocker spaniel who let me brush her teeth. She used to watch me get ready for bed and brush mine with an electric toothbrush. When I heard someone was using one on their new dog I decided to try an old electric brush on her. She surprised me by alllowing me to use it on her...provided she could lick the brush afterward. (Of course I use canine toothpaste)

Posted by: Edwina | January 20, 2015 6:47 PM    Report this comment

We've found that giving our dog raw beef bones to chew has done a lot to help with clean teeth.

Posted by: Marnahz | January 20, 2015 4:11 PM    Report this comment


Posted by: MISS MY 2ND SHADDOW | January 20, 2015 3:52 PM    Report this comment

I believe the concerns about anesthesia are warranted, but it doesn't stop the need to care for a dog's teeth. I've been a care giver to dogs for the past 10 years and a dog owner for many more. I've found Dentastix, given after a meal, effective for keeping the tartar at bay. Limiting snacking, especially table food Human table food is a good culprit for bad teeth. I also, do not feed wet food. I do use an enzymatic dog toothpaste on the dentastix. All of these things enable my 9 year old dog to have really nice teeth.

Posted by: liz1 | January 20, 2015 1:36 PM    Report this comment

Given that most vets use anesthesia for teeth cleaning, it's not a minor procedure. Clearly with any gum disease, something must be done right away, but what to do for dogs with tarter and no gum disease, or other issues? I want to do the best for my dogs, and sometimes that is hard to figure out. I've owned dogs that had tarter, never a cleaning, and never a problem. Another time a vet recommended that we just watch a discolored tooth, and it never caused another problem. Unnecessary anesthesia scares me, but how to tell when it's truly necessary for dental care?

Posted by: Alice R. | January 20, 2015 11:22 AM    Report this comment

There are varied opinions on non-anesthesia teeth cleaning for pets. That said, both my dogs, a lab and a golden, get non-anesthesia cleaning from their vet. The important thing is that the technician gets up under the gum line and doesn't just clean the visible teeth surfaces. When considering non-anesthesia cleaning for your dog, make sure it is either done by a vet or under veterinary supervision.

Posted by: MEvans1945 | January 20, 2015 11:05 AM    Report this comment

My corgi mix has teeth that seem to get grungy much more quickly than my other dog. I've had her teeth cleaned a couple times but she does not do well under anesthesia. Her breathing slows down to a scary place, no matter what the vet does to the cocktail mix. what to do? i don't want to put her under but her teeth are a problem that needs to be addressed. i'm not great about cleaning them myself, which is something i can work on, of course. i don't think in her case that will be enough.

Posted by: lynnfrbs1 | January 20, 2015 10:53 AM    Report this comment

I know my dog, at age 5, has some fairly grungy teeth. On his most recent vet visit, this was clearly noted for me. Two main concerns are preventing me from acting on this issue:
1) General anesthesia frightens me for any member of my family - my dog included.
2) Cost seems outrageous to me. $400 - $500, and that amount is if there are no other dental issues except for cleaning.
Does anyone have a better alternative for dog dental cleaning, when some major tartar exists especially on my dog's back teeth?

Posted by: Paxwolf | January 20, 2015 10:30 AM    Report this comment

Ditto on the anesthesia. My friend lost her healthy 9 year old lab when he went in for teeth cleaning.

Posted by: Kody | January 20, 2015 10:24 AM    Report this comment

I agree it's important to check our dogs teeth, but not all dogs do well under anesthesia. My 8 yr old beagle mix needed a tooth pulled and then had the other teeth cleaned. It took him 24 hrs to recover from the anesthesia. I wouldn't put him under again unless it was medically necessary.

Posted by: Chester's mom | January 20, 2015 10:05 AM    Report this comment

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