iStock_000081523419_MediumDoggy and kitty kisses are less appreciated when bad pet breath becomes a factor. Unfortunately, there are still misconceptions about the cause of halitosis in pets and whether or not it’s normal.

While it’s true your pet won’t ever experience minty fresh breath, a foul odor may be an indicator of dental disease or other healthy problems.

Bad Pet Breath: What’s the Norm?

If you just fed Whiskers some tuna or a particularly malodorous food, chances are his or her breath is going to stink. However, there are instances when ongoing halitosis can be attributed to more than just a bit of harmless, smelly food.

When bad breath is coupled with other problematic symptoms, there’s likely a more significant underlying threat. Signs to watch for include:

  • Pawing at the mouth/sore mouth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty chewing
  • Tooth discoloration
  • Red, bleeding, and/or swollen gums
  • Drooling
  • For many pets, it’s important to note that bad breath is the only sign of periodontal disease, which is why annual exams are imperative to oral health.

    The Causes of Dental Disease

    The contributing factors to dental disease are similar for both pets and humans. A lack of oral hygiene (e.g., tooth brushing, regular exams, poor diet) allows plaque and tartar to build up. Over time, periodontal disease, tooth loss, decay, abscesses, and many other serious and painful conditions can develop.

    Other contributing factors include age (senior pets are more prone to periodontal disease), breed, and food (wet foods tend to create more plaque build up).

    When it comes to poor oral health, the assumption is that it only affects the teeth and gums. We now understand there’s a significant link between oral health and overall health. Chronic inflammation and infection of the oral cavity can lead to secondary conditions, such as heart disease, that can threaten the life of your pet.

    When it’s Not Dental Disease

    Although periodontal disease is the most common reason for pet halitosis, bad breath can also be indicative of other primary conditions. Diseases or illnesses that create foul or unusual breath in pets include:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Rhinitis or respiratory problems
  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Considering the number of factors that can lead to bad breath, only a thorough diagnostic exam can identify the true cause. Please schedule an appointment when you notice the first sign of changes in your pet’s health.

    Consistent Dental Care

    The idea of brushing your pet’s teeth may seem intimidating, but all it takes is practice and patience. At Wheaton Animal Hospital, we’re happy to provide assistance and more information, including pro tips, on how to begin and maintain this healthy habit.  

    Since dental disease can impact health and shorten the lifespan of your pet, taking the time to focus on his or her oral health is critical. Along with brushing your pet’s teeth, regular oral exams and cleanings can prevent periodontal disease and other serious health conditions. And we think that’s definitely something to smile about!