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Could Your Pet's Bad Breath Be a Sign of a More Serious Health Issue?

Updated: Jan 13

We all love our furry friends, and love to cuddle with them but not when they have bad breath. While many pets have bad breath from time to time, chronic bad breath is not normal and could be a sign of more serious issues.

Your pet’s oral cavity is home to a plethora of different bacteria, which create the unpleasant odors we call “bad breath”. Bad breath can be caused by several different things, including tooth decay, infections, gum disease, and poor oral hygiene.

If this sounds like your pet, you should take your dog or cat to the veterinarian to have a dental exam done. The veterinarian will examine your pet's teeth and check for tooth decay, tartar, or other dental problems that are causing the bad odor. It's important that your pet gets its teeth and gums checked regularly because these problems can worsen over time. We recommend a dental exam at least once per year.

Oral Disease

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President, Dr. Jose Arce, “Oral disease is one of the most frequently diagnosed health problems for our dogs and cats, and it can have serious consequences for our pets’ health”.

Periodontal disease is very common in dogs and cats and often goes undetected until it is too late. Many pets show early signs of periodontal disease by the time they are only 3 years old. Advanced periodontal disease can cause serious health problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect the mouth. It can also affect their kidneys, liver, and heart.

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection in the gums that forms plaque, which hardens to form tartar. You may see some plaque and tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth, but the problem is what you can’t see. Tartar eventually spreads to under your pet’s gums and can only be removed by your veterinarian under anesthesia.

9 Tips to Prevent Periodontal Disease in your Pets

Early prevention is key and can save so much money in the long run. Here are some ways you can help to prevent your pets from getting periodontal disease and having stinky breath.

  1. Brush your pet's teeth daily. Be sure to use an approved toothpaste for pets. I like the Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste. They make one formulated for dogs and one for cats. Or you can try the DIY toothpaste recipe below.

  2. Give your pet dental treats approved by your veterinarian.

  3. Provide your pet with appropriate chew toys as active chewing helps to clean their teeth.

  4. Allow your pet to eat raw, meaty bones appropriate for their size i.e. chicken wing tips for cats and chicken wings or necks for dogs. Be sure to supervise them when they're eating raw bones. Note: never give your pets cooked bones!

  5. Give your pet a vet-approved, pet-friendly mouthwash or water additive.

  6. Check your pet's teeth regularly for signs of tartar buildup.

  7. Take your pet to the vet at least once a year for a dental checkup.

  8. Feed your pet a probiotic-rich diet or add probiotics to their food.

  9. Keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy by keeping them well-hydrated with fresh filtered water.

According to a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, only two percent of dog owners actually brush their dog’s teeth daily. Imagine if you just went to the dentist every six months for a cleaning and didn’t brush your teeth between visits – yuck!!

In addition, a survey of pet owners showed that only 14 percent of dogs and 9 percent of cats receive dental care at the veterinarian's office. Wow, imagine what kind of issues you’d have if you never received any dental care.

Here is a simple recipe for homemade toothpaste you can try.

  • 5 Tbsp Organic Coconut Oil

  • 2 tsp Baking Soda

  • 4 drops PURE Peppermint essential oil (optional)Note: don’t give peppermint oil to cats! And be sure to use a high-quality essential oil such as Young Living – not something you buy at the drug store – if it doesn’t say you can digest it on the bottle, don’t use it!

  • 2 tsp Dried Parsley (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a glass jar and store for up to 1 month.

How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

You can check out this video on brushing your dog’s and cat’s teeth. Note: I don’t agree with the use of rawhide as it can be a choking hazard.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is pretty simple once you get them used to it. Just go slow and be patient with them. You can buy special toothbrushes for dogs and cats or you can use a child’s toothbrush. For my cats, I just use a small piece of gauze with the toothpaste on it because I find it easier to maneuver my finger in their tiny mouths.

In conclusion, it's important to remember that bad breath can occur due to a number of things besides an infection, and even some conditions that you would not necessarily consider to be related to your pet's oral cavity. The most common source of bad breath in pets is bacteria found in the mouth, tongue, or throat. Bacteria in the mouth can multiply, causing plaque to build up and lead to periodontal disease.

That’s why it’s so important to take preventive measures early and often, but it’s never too late to get started. If you suspect your pet may have issues with plaque or tartar, take them in to get a dental exam and cleaning. Then start an at-home regimen to maintain a clean, healthy mouth.

Let me know in the comments below if you currently brush your pet’s teeth or if you plan to start now.

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