Wednesday, July 22, 2009 11:44 AM

More Causes of Bad Breath

Now that we've eliminated the mouth as a source of smelly pet breath, we need to move a bit lower and examine what's going on there. A couple of problems come to mind, which affect dogs almost exclusively. They both entail eating inappropriate things, such as , ahem, other animals' feces, and garbage. "Coprophagy" (eating feces) is a behavior that cats, thankfully, do not participate in but some dogs seem to enjoy quite a bit (ugh!). As you can imagine, this can lead to some nasty breath! You may or may not know if your dog engages in this behavior, as most often it does not make them sick. "Garbage gut", however, can make a dog pretty ill. This problem seems to be most prevalent in the early spring, when melting winter snows reveal all sorts of delectable items such as rotting carrion, other decaying organic matter and people's compost heaps. Some dogs simply cannot resist these tasty morsels, resulting in a monster-sized upset stomach, vomiting and diarrhea. I would expect that these two conditions exist more with dogs that are free-roaming, whereby the owners don't know what they're getting into. If you keep a close eye on your dog, neither of these problems are likely the cause of his smelly breath.

If the problem doesn't originate in the mouth or the stomach, then it's time to move on (so to speak) to other bodily systems. Impurities in the blood will make their presence known through the respiratory system, which is why we reek the day after we've imbibed a bit too much. Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to allow the body to metabolize glucose for energy. Since glucose is then excreted by the body as a waste product, the body tries to use fat stores for energy instead, causing a very distinctive "ketone breath" type of halitosis. If your pet seems ravenous but still loses weight, drinks a lot of water and is generally unthrifty, make an appointment to get him checked, particularly if he has a few years under his belt.

Other health problems that can impact the purity of circulating blood, causing bad breath, are: Liver and/or kidney disease and pancreatitis (which can develop from garbage gut). There will probably be other symptoms to alert you that something is wrong, but it is possible that foul breath may be the first to present, giving you a head start on diagnosis.

Lastly, as animals age, their digestion just isn't what it used to be. Even if they don't actually have kidney or liver disease, additives and toxins in commercial food can strain these organs, causing premature failure. Also, the poor quality proteins cause the kidneys to work too hard, and once tests show kidney failure, there seems to be no way to reverse it. Therefore, now is the time to change your animal slowly to a premium diet supplemented with home-cooked foods, or to change them over entirely to a homemade diet. Your animal's breath will be kissing-sweet if you do, plus they will live a longer, higher quality life.

Above is Molly, Miss P.'s tri-color gal (she's one of the friendly ones!).
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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