Dogs like to lick their butts. Without any consideration to proper hygiene and etiquette, they happily indulge in this natural animal instinct.
But such behavior could be contributing to, or even causing, your dog’s halitosis — and not just for the most obvious reason. (A tongue is never a suitable alternative to a sanitary wipe.) In fact, a dog’s bad breath is often a sign he has an infection somewhere in the body — if not the mouth, which is often the culprit, then somewhere, such as the anal gland, a dog licks regularly.
That’s why you should never turn your nose to a dog’s bad breath, accepting it as just the natural odor of things or part of getting old.
“Doggie breath usually means something’s wrong,” advises Ray Phillip, director of dentistry at D.C.’s Friendship Hospital for Animals. “And that something wrong may be subtle. It may just be an infection under the gums that needs to be cleaned out.” No matter what’s causing the halitosis, Phillip instructs dog owners to be vigilant. ” If a dog’s breath has changed, and the owners notice that it’s getting real bad, that’s usually an indication that something’s wrong.” In such a case, seek professional attention.
But too often, dogs — and cats — go without proper dental attention. As with humans, a pet’s oral health can have greater implications. “It is a fact that oral gum disease can affect the whole body,” says Phillip. For example, the bacteria from inflamed gums can get absorbed into the bloodstream and infect other organs, from the kidney to the heart.
Over the past decade, Phillip has helped improve and expand the dentistry department at Friendship Hospital in upper Northwest. Next week, the hospital will kick off February as National Pet Dental Health Month with a “Yappy” Hour featuring a discussion on pet dental health, complimentary teeth and gum checks of your pet and even yappy toothy pet treats — plus light fare and drinks for humans. Perhaps the centerpiece of the event, to be held in the brand-new second floor conference area, will be demonstrations on proper pet dental care — specifically on proper brushing of your pet’s teeth.
“Unfortunately — I say unfortunately because no one wants to do this, but brushing is the only way to really care for teeth properly,” says Phillip. “And should be done daily.” The Tooth Team aims to show that if done the right way — sliding a brush under the upper lip, for example, as opposed to trying to pry the mouth wide open — brushing isn’t difficult and doesn’t have to be the worst part of anyone’s day. “Most people are surprised that you don’t really have to force it in there.”
In fact, Phillip insists some pets even grow to look forward to getting their teeth brushed when the process includes the use of so-called pet toothpaste — which is simply a meat-flavored paste, not the pet-unfriendly solution we use.
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