Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bad mouth or breath odor in pets should be taken seriously

Changes in a pet's behavior, appearance, weight and willingness to eat are very clear signs that something is up. But that's not the only thing that's an indicator. The way that they smell—and my focus here, the way that their mouth or breath smells—can be an equally important signal that there's a problem.

It's important to remember that aside from the occasional bout of halitosis or after eating something especially smelly, like tuna, what comes out of your pet's mouth shouldn't smell offensive. If the odor is foul or smells sweet, a visit with the vet for an exam is most definitely in order. 

The most common culprits

Periodontal disease is the most common source of stinky breath in pets—and it's preventable. Regular brushing at home is helpful. So is ensuring that pets have professional dental exams, cleanings and any treatment (performed under anesthesia) performed by a veterinarian or even a Board Certified Veterinary Dentist, is a protocol that you might hear referred to as Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). This can safely and effectively take care of dental issues, some of which unfortunately can lead to poor organ health.

Though not as common, something as simple as a foreign object stuck in the gum or in between teeth can harbor bacteria and cause a problem, leading to mouth odor. An injury to the mouth, or tissue around the mouth that's diseased can result in odorous breath as well, and that needs attention by a vet. 

Organ dysfunction and illnesses are a possibility 

Breath that smells like ammonia is a sign of compromised kidney (renal) function. One of the breakdown products that the kidneys typically work to filter into the urine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), instead builds up in mammals with kidney dysfunction. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of urea, then finds its way into saliva, which is how the smell is detected on the breath of pets with renal insufficiency. 

Sweet-smelling odors in the breath of pets is associated with diabetes mellitus. With diabetes, glucose can't be broken down efficiently so that it can be used to fuel the body, so ketone bodies are produced and build up in the blood. The body tries to expel excess ketones—which emit a fruity odor or that of nail-polish remover—through respiration, and thus, are detected in the breath. 

Gastrointestinal disease, though a lesser-seen culprit behind stinky breath in pets, can be a contributor.

Other causes can be behind your pet's mouth odor, but there's no question that it's a sign of something that needs addressing. The most sound advice that I can offer is to skip the products on the market designed to take care of problem and instead, make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian. 

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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