Dealing With Your Pet's Bad Breath

Bad breath (halitosis) is an all-too common problem in dogs and cats and can have a number of underlying causes. Certainly the #1 cause is periodontal (tooth and gum) disease. However, there are other things that can contribute to it as well, some more serious, some not so serious. These can include:

  • Poor quality food ingredients
  • Open lesions or ulcers in the mouth
  • Oral tumors
  • Foreign bodies (i.e. bones) lodged in the mouth
  • Tooth/gum disease (periodontal disease)
  • Diabetes
  • Liver/kidney disease
  • Coprophagia (eating “poop”)
  • Anal sac disease
  • Infection of the skin folds around the mouth

A “rotten meat” or necrotic smell coming from the mouth usually indicates the presence of a foreign body, tumor, or gum ulcers. An ammonia (urine) smell can result from both liver and kidney disease. A sweet, fruity mouth odor is often a consequence of unregulated diabetes.

If your pet's breath is exceptionally bad, have it checked out by your vet. If it turns out to be nothing serious, here are some measures you can adopt to help “sweeten” the deal:

  1. Feed only high quality food  (avoid canned foods and table scraps).
  2. Play tug of war with your dog using those soft, bone-shaped rope toys. They help eliminate tartar on and between teeth by acting as “doggie” floss.
  3. Brush your pet's teeth (and tongue) daily. Pet toothpastes containing zinc (i.e. zinc ascorbate; zinc citrate) work best to neutralize odors.
  4. Apply Biotene® Oral Gel for Pets to the teeth and gums to help dissolve established plaque (Note: Do not use Biotene® formulated for humans, as it can be toxic to pets).
  5. Use a mouthrinse designed for pets. These should contain chlorhexidine as the active ingredient.
  6. Offering your pet raw vegetables, such as carrots, can help scrub the teeth free of tartar and plaque.
  7. Chlorophyll tablets, available from pet supply retailers, can help with digestion and reduce mouth odor.
  8. Feeding dog biscuits containing charcoal (these biscuits are usually black in color) can sometimes help with bad breath as charcoal absorbs and eliminates bad odors.

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