Doggy Breath Can Signal Serious Health Issues in Your Pet

In Dogs, Pet First Aid, Pet Safety, veterinarian by Cara Armour

By Arden Moore

Dental Issues

Serious dental issues can quickly surface in your pet. Kona, my 9-year-old terrier mix, was about to deliver a doggy kiss to me when I detected a foul odor from her mouth.
I looked closely inside her mouth and discovered she had red, swollen gums. Every couple of weeks, I do a head-to-tail health check on all my pets, so I was surprised to see how Kona’s gums had quickly deteriorated.

We had to wait another two weeks before she could undergo dental surgery. During the surgery, my veterinarian needed to remove an upper molar, all the tiny teeth in the upper front and a couple more teeth plus repair Kona’s gums. Typically, adult dogs have 42 teeth. Kona is now down to 32.

She was prescribed antibiotics and pain medications for 14 days. I am happy to report that Kona’s gums are back to being healthy pink and there is no more odors.
I tell you this because any time you smell so-called doggy breath in your dog – or cat – it is the body’s cry for help. Don’t ignore it – it will not go away. And even worse, dental woes don’t stay put in the mouth.

Inflammation and bacteria from gum disease can find their way into the bloodstream and impact the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Your pet’s health is at risk.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, but stepping up our awareness of our pets’ teeth and gums should be year-round. By age three, more than 70 percent of all dogs and cats show signs of dental disease.

“If your pet is dropping food a lot, losing weight, drooling excessively or bleeding from the gums, please alert your veterinarian,” says Dr. Michael Wiegand, DVM, DAVDC, a board-certified veterinary dentist who operates the Florida Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery Center in West Palm Beach and Stuart. (
Regularly be on the lookout for these other health warning signs:

  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Tartar buildup on molars
  • Shying away being touched on the face
  • Face pawing
  • Messy eating, leaving bits of kibble scattered on the kitchen floor
  • Chronic vomiting

Dr. Wiegand also points out some pets are more prone to dental issues due to their muzzle size. “The smaller the muzzle, the more prone to periodontal disease because these small dogs have 42 teeth jammed in a smaller space than big-dog mouths and food can get stuck in between their teeth.”

He says large-muzzled dogs are more apt to need his dental expertise for addressing broken teeth caused by chewing on bones, hard flying discs or ice cubes.
“Do the knee test before selecting a chew for your dog,” he says. “If you hit the chew against your knee and it hurt, don’t give it to your dog. Nylon bones and bully sticks are not good for their teeth and ice cubes can break teeth. Give your dog a chew that is pliable and has some give, such as a Kong toy that you can stuff with treats or peanut butter.”


Detecting Dental Disease at Home

There is a new at-home test to detect periodontal disease even in its earliest stage. OraStripdx is a rapid test that works in 10 seconds with no anesthesia or sedation required. The easy-to-apply test strip changes color based on the health of the gums.

Brush Regularly

Finally, make it a habit to regularly brush your pet’s teeth with toothpaste and finger brushes safe for them. You can also look into veterinarian-approved products that add are brushless

Please discuss various dental health options with your veterinarian and make it a habit of regularly sniffing your pet’s breath and examining the gums and teeth.

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.