Bad breath is not normal for dogs and cats. It can be caused by gingivitis which is an inflammation of the gingival tissues. You may see redness of the gums at the base of the teeth. Bacterial growth in the mouth causes gingivitis. The rate of growth of bacteria can be related to the animals overall health and immune status. Bacterial growth releases endotoxins which destroys gum tissue, causes inflammation and often leads to more serious dental disease. Plaque is a film on the teeth consisting of bacteria, saliva, food, and white blood cells. Plaque accumulates on the teeth then tartar develops and starts to build up on the teeth. More inflammation develops leading to more tartar and a vicious cycle is started. If not addressed the result is a very irritated mouth and inflammatory disease which can lead to periodontal disease.
The good news is gingivitis is reversible if treated early. The bad news is it’s not so easy to treat once periodontal disease sets in. Your veterinarian may recommend your pet have a COHAT (Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment). The point of this is to allow thorough cleansing of the mouth using ultrasonic scaling both above and below the gumline. Dental x-rays are performed in order to evaluate the root of the teeth. General anesthesia is required since most pets would never allow this intensive procedure nor hold still for x-rays. Anesthesia can be a frightening thought for some pet owners as it is not without risk. Early prevention is the solution to hopefully avoid or minimize these sometimes-necessary procedures. Some tips to avoid periodontal disease:
Home brushing with enzyme type products that contain plaque-reducing agents such as lactoperoxidase. Start early with your pet to familiarize them with having the brush in their mouth. Brush twice daily if possible. Focus mainly on brushing the outside of the teeth.
Good nutrition and vitamin/mineral supplements to reduce inflammation and improve immunity. Some supportive nutrients may include gland therapy (adrenal, thymus and bone marrow to neutralize cellullar immune attacks), anti-oxidants to reduce inflammation (CoQ10 is an antioxidant used to reduce inflammation;) Vitamin C; Folic Acid; and plant sterols.
Herbal therapy can include cinnamon twig to slow down plaque formation and dandelion for it’s antibacterial effects; acupuncture to relieve dental pain; and Traumeel an herbal type of anti-inflammatory that can promote healing.
With some effort you can get up close and huggable again!