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Posted on 02-15-2017

Bad Breath

Most pet owners only start to consider dental work for their pet when they notice bad breath. Bad breath, or ‘halitosis’, occurs when your pet has a dental condition such as gum disease, infection or tooth decay. Waiting until the smell is unbearable is unwise as your pet may be in considerable discomfort at that point. Though dental issues are typically the culprit of bad breath, kidney disease, diabetes, or oral tumors may also be the cause. If your pet has bad breath, it is likely time to schedule a dental exam at the very least.

How Will I Know If My Pet Needs Dental Work?

Over 85% of dogs and cats have some type of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease means that oral bacteria are destroying the gums and bone that hold the teeth in place. This preventable disease is the number one diagnosed disease in pets, yet many animals suffer needlessly.

Every annual exam performed at Sugar House Veterinary Hospital includes an evaluation of your pet’s teeth and gums. This is when owners will typically first hear that their pet may have periodontal disease and require a dental cleaning.  If you aren’t sure about your pet’s oral health, we offer FREE dental exams at our hospital to ensure that you are receiving up-to-date recommendations based on your pet’s mouth. It is better to come in earlier than your annual exam if you suspect there could be a problem.

Why Are Teeth Cleanings Recommended Annually?

I find the chore of brushing my pet’s teeth extremely daunting. I always think that I’ll do it, but I maybe brush my dog’s teeth once per year. Imagine not brushing your teeth for an entire year! Besides losing some friends along the way, you might also lose a few teeth and be in a large amount of pain.

Periodontal disease begins with gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum tissue, which is caused by plaque. Plaque is a mixture of saliva, bacteria, glycoproteins and sugars that adhere to the tooth surface. Within minutes after a cleaning, a thin layer of plaque adheres to the teeth. Eventually this hardens to become calculus or tartar (the nasty, stinky, brown stuff stuck to your dog or cat’s teeth).

Calculus by itself is nonpathogenic – it does not cause disease. However, it does create a rough surface for more plaque to adhere to, and pushes the gums away from the teeth, which increases the surface area for more plaque to adhere. Eventually, the supporting structures of the tooth (bone, tissue, periodontal ligament) are destroyed and the tooth becomes mobile and will either fall out on its own or need to be extracted.

Veterinarians recommend an annual cleaning because MOST pets will need one at that point. If annual dental cleanings for your pet are financially daunting, here are a few things you can do at home to hopefully delay the need for professional intervention.

Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

The recommendation for brushing your pet’s teeth is to do it EVERY DAY. Yes, even your cats! If you aren’t sure how to brush your pet’s teeth, our trained technicians would be more than happy to give you a demonstration at your next visit. There are toothbrushes specifically designed for dogs and cats, as well as special toothpaste that is safe to use. An oral rinse is another tool to help rid your pet’s mouth of bacterial buildup.


If you are unable to brush your pet’s teeth, at least try and allow for 20 minutes of chewing per day. We carry Oravet Chews from Merial at our office for small, medium, and large dogs that basically proved a coating on the teeth to help deter plaque build-up. I recommend supervising your pet during “chew time” to make sure it isn’t ingesting large pieces or causing damage to its mouth.

For cats, we carry feline greenies to help with tartar control, though this alone won’t be sufficient. There are a few toys that encourage appropriate chewing and would also be a good opportunity for playtime with your kitty. For more ideas, check out Top Ten Tips on How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean by PetMD.

Dental Diets

There are diets formulated to help reduce and even remove plaque to a certain extent. For post-dental cleaning maintenance, we recommend using the Hill’s Science Diet T/D as a treat or as a mix in to your pet’s food. This diet has larger kibble pieces that contain more calories than regular food, so make sure to adjust your pet’s meal accordingly.

It Isn’t Just About the Teeth

According the American Veterinary Dental College, studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys. It is easy to shrug off a bad tooth as “just a mouth problem”, but poor oral hygiene can affect the overall health and longevity of your pet.

Get Started Today

If you aren’t sure how your pet’s teeth are doing right now, please call us and schedule a free dental exam. If your pet hasn’t had a dental cleaning in several years (or ever) get on our schedule for an anesthetic dental with x-rays so we can properly diagnose and treat any issues that may be present.

Once your pet has freshly cleaned teeth and gums, start your at home regiment to help maintain their oral hygiene. We also offer dental cleanings without anesthesia as a maintenance option in between anesthetic cleanings with full mouth x-rays.

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