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Natural Awakenings National

Doggy Breath: Cures for Your Animal's Stinky Mouth

Mar 01, 2010 03:00AM ● By Dr. Shawn Messonnier

Up to a stunning 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats over the age of three suffer from bad breath, frequently a sign of oral health problems. One of the most serious offenders is periodontal disease, a deterioration of the gums and bones supporting the teeth. In my veterinary practice, more than 90 percent of the pets I see from ages 1 to 3 years already show early symptoms of this infectious disease, such as yellow brown tartar on tooth surfaces. Some also suffer from gingivitis, or inflammation (reddening) of the gums. If left untreated, the teeth can become loose and may need to be pulled.

If a pet already has been diagnosed with periodontal disease, twice yearly dental cleanings, under anesthesia, can keep the problem from escalating. I assure clients that otherwise healthy pets generally have low risks associated with anesthesia. Talking with a holistic vet will ensure the minimal amount of anesthetic needed is used.

In addition, a few at-home measures will work to minimize an animal’s bad breath:

Try daily brushing. ~ Ask a holistic veterinarian to prescribe a pet toothpaste or gel. Many contain chlorhexidine, an antibacterial agent that helps control odor.

Apply a plaque-prevention gel.  ~ Prescription products like OraVet and the over-the-counter Pet Gel, made with aloe vera, applied two to three times a week, act to repel bacteria and slow development of dental disease. Adding Oral Hygiene Solution to a pet’s daily drinking water is also an easy preemptive plaque attack technique. A regular combined program can be 80 percent as effective as daily brushing.

The most common disease in dogs and cats is dental disease. Your pet’s fresh breath could mean longer life and lower veterinary dental expenses.

Consider herbal supplements. ~ Oregon grape root, rosemary, thyme and parsley work to reduce the oral bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and cause infection of internal organs, if left unchecked. All of these herbs are available in capsule form; a vet should recommend the dosage.

Employ chew toys. ~ Chewing helps to dislodge odor-causing tartar and bacteria. Avoid giving pets bones, hooves and rawhide products, which are typically contaminated with chemicals; ingested, these can cause choking or intestinal problems. Again, an enlightened vet can suggest alternatives.

Finally, before attempting treatment for periodontal disease, remember that other problems, such as kidney or digestive disease, can also cause bad breath. A thorough exam by a holistic veterinarian will ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

The welcome news is that clinical experience indicates that proper oral health may extend the life of a pet by as long as two to five years. It’s another exceptionally good reason to tackle both cat tuna breath and doggie breath.

Shawn Messonnier, a doctor of veterinary medicine, is a national holistic pet columnist and author of The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats and Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets. His radio show airs weekly on Sirius and XM radio. Find his iPhone app at For more of his informative articles, visit

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