Seeking the source of bad breath
Q:My terrier’s breath stinks. What can I do about it? I give her chew toys that are supposed to be good for her dental health, but they don’t seem to help all that much, and her kisses are lethal.
A:If only dog breath was as sweet as horse breath! Chews made for dental heath can be helpful but usually only as a preventive measure. It sounds like your terrier has gone past that point and now may need more advanced dental care.
Any dog can develop dental disease, but terriers and certain other small breeds are particularly at risk. A dog’s
basic tooth structure is very much like our human teeth, and they can get cavities, periodontal disease, tooth root infections and other dental problems just like we do.
The most reliable sign of dental disease in dogs is bad breath, so, unfortunately, it is time to visit your veterinarian. Chances are, at a minimum, there are areas of your dog’s mouth where plaques and tartar are obscuring the surface of the teeth, and the gums may be reddened. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real problem may be that bacteria-laden plaques are spreading under the gumline, setting off infections and inflammatory reactions that can damage the teeth and surrounding tissues.
For a more accurate diagnosis of what is going on in your dog’s mouth, your veterinarian will first need to clear away the visible plaque and tartar, a procedure which must be done under general anesthesia. Modern anesthetic protocols are very safe and allow for a complete cleaning and exam. Even many humans need to have “sedation dentistry” to overcome the fear and discomfort of dental work, so don’t deny it to your little dog! (Groomers and other dog-care professionals may offer to scrape your dog’s teeth while she is awake, but this procedure is only cosmetic.)
Once your veterinarian has removed the tartar, he will be able to determine what further treatments may be necessary. The dental services available to dogs can be as comprehensive as those for people, and you have many options depending on your budget and your terrier’s needs.
Please don’t delay in seeing your veterinarian. Untreated periodontal disease will only grow worse over time, and in some cases the resulting infections will spread into the sinuses or the bones of the jaw or skull. Plus, on the off-chance that your dog’s teeth are not the problem, then your veterinarian will have to examine her more thoroughly to find the source of the stink.
Good luck! I hope you are back to sweet little terrier kisses in no time!