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Pet Periodontal Problems

Since February is National Pet Dental Health Month, we thought this would be a good time to discuss something all pet parents combat... bad breath!

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some kind of oral disease by the age of 3. Bacteria in the mouth has an unpleasant odor. That odor might signify a serious health risk with the potential to damage not only your pet's teeth and gums but its internal organs as well. Bad breath is the result of a build-up of odor-producing bacteria in your pet’s mouth, lungs, or gut. If a musky scent is coming from your kitty's mouth, this could be a warning sign that she has periodontal disease or another oral disease such as stomatitis, a common feline condition that causes painful inflammation of the gums and mouth tissues.

There are many ways that you can improve, treat, and prevent bad breath in your pet. The best way, just like in people, is to brush the teeth! A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used to clean your pet’s teeth daily to remove any food particles and prevent the build-up of tartar and plaque deposits. Make sure to only use toothpaste that is specially formulated for use on pets. You will also need to prevent your dog from eating bad-smelling foods such as garbage and feces (coprophagia).

The next best way to treat the teeth is to provide hard, safe chew toys that allow your dog’s teeth to be cleaned by the natural process of chewing. There are many treats, toys, and food specifically designed to promote oral health available on the market. Check for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to make sure that whatever alternative you choose meets the standards for effective plaque and tartar control. Your dog's treats should be easy on their teeth. Skip anything that's too hard like bones, antlers, or hooves. See below for an easy recipe to make treats at home with will help with stinky breath. If you don’t have the time to bake doggy cookies, you can offer them some super healthy fruit and veggie treats. Try slicing up an apple or a carrot into small pieces and offering them as snacks or rewards. Alternatively, you can chop up parsley and add it to your dog’s food for extra zing. For a complete list of VOHC Accepted Products, click here.

Finally, your pet should have an annual physical exam and dental health check with the veterinarian to make sure there aren't any serious oral health problems. To thoroughly examine your pet's teeth and gums, properly get rid of nasty plaque and tartar between the teeth and under the gum-line, and take X-rays of the tooth roots, the vet will need to anesthetize your pet. Before your vet even begins anesthesia, she may recommend screening blood tests to help ensure that your pet is healthy enough for the procedure. Remember that the benefits of dental cleaning far outweigh the possible risks of anesthesia. When your pet wakes up, her breath will smell better and her teeth will be shinier and healthier. And as an extra bonus, maintaining healthy teeth and gums helps protect the body's other organs, like the heart and kidneys, from the damaging effects of dental disease.

Fresh breath dog treats to make at home!


3 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour

1 cup of cornmeal

1 cup finely chopped parsley

1 cup finely chopped mint (or 1 tsp mint extract)

2 eggs

2/3 cup milk (almond/rice/soy)

3/8 cup olive oil

1 cup water


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until a thick dough forms. It should hold together into a ball when pressed in your hands. If it’s flaky, add a bit more water until it holds together firmly.

  3. Sprinkle counter with flour and roll dough out to ¼ thickness.

  4. Use a cookie cutter to cut dough and place on non-stick cookie sheet.

  5. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown and let cool.

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