What’s that smell? That kind of smell was only noticed after your pet came over to cuddle with you and provide you with some much needed kisses over your face. As our clinic is coming up on Dental Month, we are going to talk about why our pet’s breath smells bad sometimes.

The most common cause for halitosis (AKA bad breath) is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease manifests when an animal experiences excessive buildup of plaque on the tooth’s surface due to bacteria. Excessive plaque will lead to the development of gingivitis which will lead to the development of periodontitis (a fancy word for bone loss). The excessive amount of bacteria that manifest on the surface of the teeth produce a chemical that creates the bad breath smell. 

There are other causes for halitosis in an animal besides periodontal disease. Less common causes of bad breath include abscesses, neoplasia of the mouth, foreign bodies, diabetes, kidney disease, or ingestion of fecal material. 

Treatment for halitosis will be determined by your veterinarian diagnosing the underlying cause. The diagnosis can be made simply from examination alone, but may require further diagnostics like bloodwork or imaging. If the main underlying cause of your pet’s bad breath is periodontal disease, then dental cleaning will be needed with potential extractions to restore a more tolerable pet’s breath again. If one of the less common causes (listed above) explains the underlying bad breath, then medications or surgery may need to be considered instead. 

So how do I prevent or slow down my pet from developing a trench mouth? Well if your pet will tolerate it, brushing their teeth like we brush ours will slow town tartar and plaque development over time. If your pet isn’t tolerating having a toothbrush in their mouth, then dental treats, hard chew toys, and hard kibble also work well in slowing down plaque development. If you think your pet’s breath is bad enough to clear a room, then contact your veterinarian so they can set up a dental cleaning and make their teeth look nice and shiny again.