PDSA

My 10-year-old Cocker Spaniel has really bad breath. I feed him a complete kibble food and he is otherwise very well for his age, so I don’t think anything too major is the cause. Do you have any suggestions?

Alison Logan advises…

Have you looked in your dog’s mouth? Do you brush his teeth? When was he last examined by a vet?

All these questions are pertinent because the commonest cause of bad breath in dogs is dental disease. If you are brushing his teeth regularly, then you will not only be caring for the health of your dog’s teeth, but you will also be aware of the condition of them, as you will be inspecting them on a regular basis, whenever you brush them.

As one generally brushes the outer surfaces only, it is possible to miss changes on the inner aspects, or a fractured tooth, and there could be problems brewing below the gum level, which would only show up on radiography. Just one tooth with a root abscess will taint the breath, which may not be evident to you when brushing the teeth. Alternatively, there may be material adherent to the inner aspect of the teeth, or even a mass within the mouth.

Alternatively, does your dog eat unmentionables, such as faeces – whether his own, other dogs’ or from other species? All pretty revolting to consider, but a good way to cause bad breath. Licking at the rear in response to impacted anal sacs will also result in halitosis – a great waft of dragon breath from my previous Labrador was always a sure sign that she needed her anal sacs emptying.

Then there are the causes due to illness. Kidney failure, for example, will result in bad breath because of circulating toxins. A sweet, pear-drop smell of acetone on the breath is the classic sign of ketosis, a complication of diabetes mellitus.

Your vet will examine your dog’s teeth and mouth during a routine examination, and there may also be appointments offered at a dental clinic run by a veterinary nurse. So, I would certainly start with the mouth itself as the source of the smell. Hopefully, there will be an explanation, which can be rectified. Not only is a dog with bad breath unpleasant to have around, but the smell will transfer to his coat when he grooms himself, leading to an overall bad smell.

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