Your Dog’s Bad Breath is Significant

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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.

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