What Does My Pets Bad Breath Mean?

by Catherine Tucker / Pet Owner Advice / 24 Aug 2017

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Your fur baby may need more than a breath mint for their bad breath. It can be a sign of an underlying issue of dental disease.

August is the Australian Veterinary Association’s (AVA) Pet Dental Health Month to promote the importance of good oral care.
Four out of five dogs and cats over the age of three years have some sort of dental disease, so what can fur parents do to help their pets pearly whites stay healthy.
Dental disease, or periodontal disease, is easily preventable and yet it’s one of the most common problems that veterinarians diagnose in Australian pets. 
It is caused by an infection called plaque which is consists of food particles, saliva and bacteria, which sticks to the tooth surface.
RSPCA Queensland says it doesn’t take long for plaque to build up.

“Plaque can build up within three to five days on a healthy tooth and if not removed hardens to form tartar,” they said. 
“Tartar then irritates the gums causing gingivitis and bad breath.”
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Oral hygiene is important factor in a dogs overall health and there are common signs pet owners can look out for.
The RSPCA Queensland shares common signs of dental disease include: 
  • bad breath, 
  • painful mouth, 
  • difficulty eating or reduced appetite, 
  • teeth loss paring and rubbing of the mouth, 
  • bleeding gums, 
  • yellow-brown tartar build up on teeth, and 
  • drooling
“Oral hygiene…can extend your dog’s life up to four years if actively maintained,” they said.
According to Dr Hamish Bathgate of Blakehurst Vet says it can be tricky for owners to spot the signs.
“Pet often won’t show pain and they can’t tell us when they are in pain,” Dr Bathgate said.
“Even with sore gums, infected mouths and broken teeth, some pets continue to eat,”
“Just like humans, pets need professional dental care to keep their mouths, teeth and body healthy.”


The AVA promotes both good oral care at home as well as thorough dental examination. 
Tips for keeping your pet healthy:
  • Feed them a balanced diet
  • Brush their teeth regularly
  • A raw, uncut bone treat once or twice a week
  • Oral health dry food allows dogs to chew and scrub of plaque

Regular health checks at the vet are recommended by the AVA with an annual dental check to check for any problems that have gone unnoticed.

“Dental checks also help ensure bacteria and poisons from dental infections do not spread to the heart, liver and kidneys through the bloodstream,” the AVA said.  

The RSPCA Queensland says brushing your dog’s teeth is crucial in removing plaque and tartar and requires regular attention.
STEP 1: Introduce a brushing program gradually. Avoid over-restraining him and keep brushing sessions short and positive. A small dog can be held in your lap. Praise and reassure your pet throughout the process.
STEP 2: At first, dip a finger into beef bouillon (this is to give the dog a treat whilst getting the dog used to fingers in his mouth do not do this if your dog is allergic to beef protein). Rub the soaked finger gently over your dog's mouth and teeth. Make the initial sessions short and positive.
STEP 3: Gradually, introduce gauze over the finger and gently scrub the teeth in a circular motion.
STEP 4: Finally, you can introduce a soft toothbrush designed for pets. Use a sensitive or ultra-soft brush designed for people or a brush designed for pets. Special pet toothbrushes and toothpaste are available from your veterinarian or specialty pet store. Don't use toothpaste designed for people because it could upset your dog's stomach.
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