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How To Muzzle That Dog Breath!

By: Dr. Jim Randolph


All joking aside, pet's halitosis can be a sign of serious health problems.

Your friend's pet has an ugly secret.

You don't know how to tell his owner without harming your relationship. But something has to be done. You can't go over to dinner this Friday night and face it again.

Dog breath. Whew! There, you've said it. Your friend's dog has horrible breath, and it's more than you can bear. Dinner is out of the question because you lose your appetite as soon as you walk in the door. Barfer's breath would stop an elephant at 50 paces, and you don't know how your friend stays in his apartment with Barfer.

So, how will you break the news to him? He didn't get the hint last Friday night when your date left early. The fumes from the dog's mouth don't bother him. You suppose you could just tell him.

But, there's an easier way: anonymous phone tip. No, you don't have to call the police. You simply call Hill's Pet Nutrition's Doggy Breath Hotline. It's a 24-hour, toll-free number and a real person answers the phone. Call 1-800-615-1400 (USA) or visit www.petdental.com.

You get a little education about pet dental health and you and your friend can get a free (the best kind) dental health care kit. No one has to know that you sent it, but keep yours out of sight when he comes to visit your house to avoid raising suspicions.

Pet Dental Health

Seriously, pet dental health is a very important subject.

Yes, I said pets, so you cat owners listen up, too.

For example, we know that pets age more quickly when the stress of inflamed gums and infected tooth roots are allowed to continue untreated. We know that infected teeth release bacteria into the bloodstream that can cause damage to delicate heart valves. The same infections can lodge in and damage the liver. The process of the immune system's attack on these infections can cause protein deposits in the kidneys.

Of course, all this adds up to a dangerous, life-shortening problem, to say nothing of the misery of bad breath.

At your next regularly scheduled vet visit, ask your pet's doctor about tooth brushing, Prescription Diets Canine and Feline t/d to help slow the buildup of tartar and plaque, and how to examine your pet's teeth between doctor visits so that you will know if problems exist before they result in loss of a tooth or damage to other parts of the body.

If the doctor determines that a dental cleaning is needed, he will advise you about lab tests that might be needed, about the safety of the newest general anesthetics and about the equipment used to clean, polish and apply fluoride to your pet's teeth.

Home care, especially in the form of tooth brushing, is easier than ever. Specially-shaped brushes that fit on your finger, combined with specially-formulated, nonfoaming toothpastes, make the job easy. Brushing helps breath, but there's a reason it does, and here's how it works.

Brushing Kills Bacteria

We live in a sea of bacteria. Most of the parts of our bodies have bacteria, or tiny microorganisms. Some can cause infection, others can do good for our bodies. In the mouth, bacteria live on tiny food particles left over when we eat. These bacteria use the food particles, combining them with minerals in our saliva, to form a soft material called plaque, in a matrix, a geometric pattern that resembles a crosshatch of squares. If in the first 24 hours after it has formed the pattern is disturbed, the plaque can be brushed away. After 24 hours, though, the pattern hardens and becomes a hard material called calculus or tartar. No longer susceptible to brushing, it must be scraped away by a dental hygienist.

If calculus is allowed to persist and grow larger, it inflames the gums and traps even worse bacteria, leading to infection and even more odor.

Therefore, the importance of brushing after every meal is to remove new food particles that the bacteria can use to make new plaque, but also to disturb any matrices formed in plaque that you missed in your last brushing.

Now, lift the lip of the pet sitting in your lap as you read this. Don't like what you see (and smell)? That is exactly what our mouths would look like if we didn't brush at least once daily. There is no difference in the biology of your mouth and your pet's mouth. They work the same.

Teeth Affect Health

How does this mess in his mouth relate to the rest of his body? See how pink or red the gums are? They get that colour from the blood that's flowing through vessels in the gums. As the blood flows, it brings oxygen and nutrients to the gum tissue but also tries to carry away harmful things such as infection. Where does the infection go from there? Everywhere the blood goes. Which means that infection can damage the most sensitive tissues of the body, commonly attacking the valves of the heart or causing abscesses in the liver.

So your best friend's teeth and gums got in the shape they're in from lack of brushing. What can you do now?

If it's not too bad, starting to brush now may help. Meet with your pet's doctor or his staff to learn the important steps.

If, however, there is calculus (tartar) buildup and red, swollen, bleeding gums, the pain may be too great to start with brushing and he may need to have a good scaling by your veterinarian first.

The most important calculus is what's under the gum line, so there will have to be anesthesia to keep your pet completely still to perform this procedure safely.

After that, your job is prevention of future calculus. Your pet's doctor can advise you on appropriate methods of tooth brushing as well as the use of Prescription Diet t/d (for both dogs and cats), which can reduce the rate of calculus buildup on the teeth.

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