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Expert Advice on Pet Health and Nutrition

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WebMD Expert Discussion: Is Your Dog’s Bad Breath a Sign of Sickness

You bend down to give your furry pal a good rub around the ears -- and take three steps back as his breath nearly knocks you over. Has Max just been playing in the garbage again? Or does his bad breath signal something more serious?

There's a difference between plain old “dog breath” and halitosis that may point to a health problem, guest veterinarian Will Draper, DVM, says in the WebMD online discussion, Caring for Your Pet. Unpleasant odors may be caused by bacteria in the mouth, or they may be the result of gingivitis (gum disease). But there are also other possible causes that would require expert care, including:

  • Oral tumors
  • A foreign body (like a splinter) lodged in the mouth, causing an abscess and infection
  • Gastrointestinal illnesses
  • Kidney disease

It's also possible that your dog has just been digging in the cat box or eating food that doesn't agree with his digestive system. That's why a good oral exam is needed if you note an unusually foul odor emanating from your pet's mouth. Draper says that the vet will take a full history, perform a physical exam, and run blood tests to measure values such as blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, and phosphorus levels.

One woman reported that her 10-year-old dog has bad breath that can't be remedied. Although it's simply because of bad teeth, he can't be put under anesthesia for the cleaning he needs because of liver problems. “His breath is a bit rank, but not horrendous.”

Another woman does characterize her dog's breath as “the most horrendous ever.” She gives him dental cleaning chew toys and monitors his diet. But nothing seems to help. She knows a professional cleaning is in her dog's future, but laments the expense.

Has your dog had issues with bad breath? What did you discover as the cause and how do you work to remedy it?

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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