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What to do about stinky breath

Nadine Lober

In modern times, with advances in veterinary medicine, our pets are living longer and more dental disease is occurring in our older patients. Some diseases occur in both cats and dogs and others are species specific. Both cats and dogs have problems with periodontal disease, fractured teeth and discolored teeth. As pet owners, the most obvious problem we first notice is bad breath when our pet pants or licks our face. I’m talking about the breath caused by the severe tartar and gum disease, not from eating god knows what.Periodontal disease, in which the gums become inflamed, is the most common dental disease occurring in both cats and dogs. It is associated with movement of the gum margins away from the tooth. When you see the tartar – the accumulation of plaque and calculus – on the teeth, there is also bacteria there replicating rapidly. If the plaque is not removed with regular brushing, it will become mineralized and turn into calculus or tartar. The inflammation of the gums will cause an excessively red color on the gum line or thickness of the gums. The gums will also bleed easily on probing. You may have heard from human medicine how dangerous it is to have severe periodontal disease and not treat it. Research has proved that organs such as the lungs, kidneys, heart and liver are susceptible to infection from the bacteria circulating in the blood that has come from the mouth. Most of the time, the tartar accumulates on the upper back teeth, the fourth premolar and the molars. So it is sometimes hard to notice unless you pull back the lips. Feeding your pet a diet of only hard food will not in itself prevent periodontal disease. It may delay the onset of such disease but regular brushing and the occasional dental check up is still warranted.To perform a proper dental on your pet in the hospital, he has to be anesthetized. First your pet will usually not allow such a procedure while he is awake and second, we place an endotracheal tube down his trachea to allow for breathing and to prevent any discarded water leaking into your pet’s lungs. The treatment involves scaling the teeth with an ultrasonic scaler and polishing. If the gums are bleeding a lot and there was significant tartar and gum inflammation, we will send your pet home with antibiotics and a toothbrush kit. Dental disease is not to be taken lightly, so try to brush your pets’ teeth – and good luck to the cat owners. Just think what your breath would be like and what your teeth would look like if you never brushed them. Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at 949-7972. Vail, Colorado


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