Teeth Matter

Why does my pet’s breath smell bad?

Dental disease affects more than 80% of pets over three years old. How can you tell if your pet is affected, and if it’s time to seek professional dental help?

If you observe any of the following signs, your pet needs a dental examination and an anesthetic dental cleaning performed by a veterinarian:

Bad breath

  • Does your dog shower you in stinky smooches? Any noticeable oral odor indicates that your pet is suffering from periodontal disease, even if his teeth are sparkling white. Plaque, tartar, and calculus are odorless, but disease beneath the gum line causes bad breath


  • A pet’s gum tissue should be a healthy pink color. Gingivitis causes inflammation of the gums, which become dark pink or red. Again, your pet may have spotless teeth, but the presence of gingivitis indicates an unhealthy mouth in need of professional assistance.

Fractured Teeth

  • Just like people, pets have a nerve and a blood supply that runs through each individual tooth. When a tooth is fractured, the exposed nerve is incredibly painful. You may notice your pet isn’t eating as readily as they once did, or they’ve lost interest in their favorite chew toys. Some pets actually help soothe the pain of a fractured tooth by chewing more than usual, as the pressure of chewing can bring relief. Fractured teeth are not only a source of pain–with time they can become infected and abscess.
  • Most toys and treats marketed as “dental toys” or “dental treats” are more likely to break your pet’s teeth than keep dental disease at bay. If you cannot bend the toy or treat, or sink your thumbnail into the toy or treat, it is too hard for your pet and can result in a broken tooth. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (vohc.org) is a fantastic resource for chews, treats, and products that have been studied extensively by veterinary dentists and approved to be safe AND effective.

Loose teeth

  • Healthy teeth don’t wiggle! If your pet has a tooth with any mobility, it’s time to see your veterinarian.

Discolored teeth

  • Have you noticed one of your pet’s teeth has a gray or purple hue? This is typically the result of a non-vital, or dead, tooth. Non-vital teeth are typically caused by blunt trauma to the tooth, like catching a Frisbee or incurring an injury to the face.

Why do I need to take care of my pet’s teeth? Growing up our pets never had dental procedures and they were fine.

We hear this question all the time. Pets are living longer than ever before, and much of that is due to an increased awareness of dental disease. Our pets now receive care much like our own, with annual blood work and examinations to make sure they stay healthy.

Dental disease and systemic diseases like heart, liver, and kidney disease go hand in hand. Imagine being exposed to harmful bacteria and their toxic byproducts 24 hours a day; it’s a continual bacterial shower as the bacteria make their way into the bloodstream and throughout the body. Many times after a thorough dental cleaning, pets with health issues see noticeable improvement in heart murmurs, liver, and kidney disease, as well as an improved quality of life.

Visit our blog next month to learn about the dangers of anesthesia-free dental cleanings and why reputable veterinarians advise against them.

This guest post was written by Jocelyn Davis, Manager of Clinical Operations and Development for ZippiVet Animal Hospital.

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