Based on an article that first appeared at

Let's face it, our cats and dogs rarely have pleasant breath, but because we are so accustomed to our dogs and cats having some level of stinky breath, pet owners all too often write off offensive breath as just a normal part of canine and feline existence. Of course, the word offensive is a subjective term observed by the person taking in the scent of the breath, but let's just say that once breath reaches the point of smelling like a decaying fish carcass or fecal matter, it has reached the point of offensive.

With February being Animal Dental Health Awareness Month, this article is going to focus on dentistry and the implications of dental and gum disease in dogs and cats, however, offensive breath is not always 100% attributable to dental disease alone. Offensive breath can signify any number of disease, including diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, endocrine disease (disease of the body's hormonal systems), and even cancer. Therefore, if offensive breath has reared its ugly head in the mouth of your furry family member, you would do well to schedule a visit ASAP.

But since it is Animal Dental Health Awareness Month, however, let us focus on dental disease and its potential impact on the body. First of all, when there is dental tartar, that represents bacteria colonizing the teeth so densely that it has formed a rock like eform we call calculus. Once there is calculus, all the brushing and dental bones in the world are not going to get that must be scaled off with dental instruments and ultrasonic scalar. The other important implications of calculus is that as it progresses, the bacteria then infects the gums - a condition known as gingivitis - the presence of bacteria in the mouth getting swallowed every moment and getting absorbed through the gums that are rich in blood supply, stresses the body's immune system, leading to a break down in the overall health of the pet. What's more, the bacteria may seed itself in other tissues, such as the heart and kidneys, or even become blood borne leading to full body infection, a condition known as sepsis...and when these complications occur, we are talking serious problems and suffering for the pet, as well as serious expense for the owner.

Directly in the mouth, dental disease and gingivitis cause pain and sensitivity. As the gums remain chronically infected or inflamed, they recess, exposing the roots of the teeth. Because by their nature, dogs and cats (especially cats) do everything in their power to suppress signs of pain (bear in mind that animals in the wild showing pain will be predated upon, have their food stolen, and be chased out of their territory - making it imperative that an animal not show pain or weakness), the pain that dental disease causes is often not noticed by pet owners...and so they suffer silently.
From a compassionate perspective, as cherished family members and living creatures, we do not want our pets to suffer in pain; from a medical perspective, pain causes stress, which leads to the deterioration of overall health of the animal.

Our job as veterinarians is to recognized disease by interpreting signs of disease and performing thorough physical examinations. If we advise dentistry because of dental and gum disease, please don't take it lightly. If dental disease is caught early and a pet has a routine cleaning once every 1-2 years, not only do we save the pet from pain and poor health, it also enables us to intervene before there is too much damage to the tooth roots and surrounding jaw bone, hpefully preventing the necessity for teeth to be extracted. Not only are extractions unpleasant for the pet, they require oral surgery, and therefore can also become expensive for the owner.

So in honor of Animal Dental Health Awareness Month, we are running a dental special of 15% off all dentistry through the end of this month (February 28, 2013). It is not too late to schedule your pet's appointment and give him/her the gift of good oral health while saving cost. Good oral health translates to good general health. 

Dr. Roger Welton is the President of Maybeck Animal Hospital and CEO/Chief Editor of the veterinary information and blog online community, Web-DVM.