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Why Does Her Breath Smell Like That?

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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A secret that few veterinarians will tell you is that we (mostly) all have our “favorite” diseases.  These are conditions that we feel very comfortable diagnosis and treating.  For some veterinarians, they "love" a set of conditions so much that they go on to specialize in a particular area.

For me, one of these conditions is dental disease.  I love when a pet parent asks me, “Why does her breath smell like that?” or other dental health questions.  In general, these questions are fun for me, because I at least know which end of the dog to start on!  So I lift up the lips, and start doing some discovery.

Many times when I lift the lips, my patient is nervous because NO ONE ever lifts her lips at home.  Sometimes we see pearly white teeth, or I get a sneaky kiss.  Unfortunately, a lot of times there is major disease, such as gingivitis or a broken tooth, which her pet parent didn’t realize because he or she never looked in her mouth. 

Some people are afraid of dog’s mouths. The mouth is where the teeth are, and as kids, we are (hopefully) taught not to play in or around a dog’s mouth.  While it is true for safety, it is important to take some of that fear away.  Not all dog’s mouths are bad, or scary.  Of course, be safe, and if you are unsure of how to work around your dog’s mouth, ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician to show you how.

I frequently hear pet parents talk about “dog breath.”  Dog breath is often a sign of an issue.  Most dogs, when they have good regular dental care, don’t have a huge amount of odor to their breath.  It may smell a bit like dog food, but any sour, sweet, pungent or rancid odor means there is a problem that needs attention.  Sometimes it is something minor, like a piece of food stuck in her teeth.  But sometimes it is something more concerning.

Another question I am asked is “Why does she lick her lips?”  In the south (where I’m from) it is phrased “Why does she lick her chops?”  Sometimes it is due to hunger, or even nausea.  Sometimes it is due to anxiety or pain.  And sometimes, it’s because something in her mouth is hurting her.  Your dog’s teeth are just as sensitive as your teeth (and we all know how bad a toothache can be).  Just like us, dogs need regular dental care to prevent disease as well as to detect disease early.  Here at Voyce, we are very concerned with early detection of problems (which is why we share information with your veterinarian).  So if something is going on, you want to know about it as soon as possible.

Another question: “Should you brush teeth?”  Answer: Yes, every day.  But here’s another ‘secret.’  We are all human, vets included.  I do not brush Sophie’s teeth every day.  (Veterinary dentists, please forgive me for the error of my ways.)  BUT, she gets a sedated dental cleaning every 6-12 months, including bloodwork and dental xrays.  She uses her teeth every day, so I need to take care of them all year round.

I’m not perfect, and I don’t expect you to be perfect either.  If you add in one extra step, whether it is lifting those lips, brushing her teeth daily, or getting her teeth cleaned annually, both you and she will be better for it.  February is dental health month, so now is a great time to learn more, and make small healthier changes for her dental health!  And when she leans it for that slobbery kiss, you will know why her breath smells like that.

Dr. LH is one of many veterinarian and pet-pet health professionals that are featured experts for Voyce. This article is an example of the beneficial articles found in the Voyce member portal that is included with your purchase of the Voyce band and membership. To order your Voyce Experience, click here!