A concerned reader asks Dr Platzhund on how to help a dog that has chronic bad breath, as brushing his teeth with a dog toothbrush and dental paste doesn’t help.
Q: My dog of six years has halitosis and I can detect it when he is panting up close and it truly stinks. I have tried brushing his teeth with a dog toothbrush and dog dental paste but it’s not helping, the odour prevails. I can’t bear his close presence and I feel so guilty having to reject him all the time. My friends and family have noticed it for quite some time too–What can I do about this?
A: Bad breath must never be ignored, as it indicates poor oral hygiene due to the accumulation of bacteria in the tartar on the teeth. However, many other conditions such as tumours, especially in Boxers, and mouth infections due to foreign body substances stuck between the teeth – such as material, food, grass, twigs, and bone fragments – can cause halitosis. Some breeds such as Spaniels have lip-folds on the lower jaw that become moist and infected with bacteria. Once plaque is attached to the teeth, no toothbrush can clean the affected teeth, and the smell can be detected from metres away. Certain breeds like Maltese and Chihuahua may be fed the best dental diet, with no treats whatsoever, and still succumb to periodontal disease and bad breath. Bad breath may also be a sign of more serious systemic problems, such as diabetes, kidney disease and digestive disorders, which can be confirmed with your veterinarian by way of blood tests. Dental cleansing is carried out under general anaesthesia. During this process any tumours and foreign bodies can be removed. Once cleaned, the diet needs to change to prevent future occurrences. Dry dog pellets, chunks, and kibbles are most effective. One must avoid canned foods and human food, unless you’re capable of cleaning all the teeth from outside and inside, from front to back and in between. Blood tests may be carried out to determine if there are any other underlying problems so they may be attended to at once. Make sure teeth are all there and counted, and check frequently for rotten teeth.