A Bad Case Of Doggy Breath

Dr. John Kaya
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Wednesday - August 03, 2011
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Doggy breath ... what’s that all about?

Well, dogs don’t usually have their teeth brushed regularly (although they should) and breath-freshener products like mouthwash, chewing gum or breath mints are not commonly used by our canine counterparts.

Still, there are times that a patient comes in with horrible halitosis. Health concern or just unpopular? You decide.

Dr. Smith walked in with Frankie, a frisky 5year-old Maltese weighing just 6 pounds. Frankie was due for his annual exam, and the only concern that Dr. Smith had was the awful odor that seemed to come from Frankie’s mouth.

“Doc, I love my little boy, but sometimes it’s hard to let him lick my face. His breath is just awful. As a dentist, I’ve smelled a lot of halitosis in my line of work, but Frankie’s breath beats them all,” Dr. Smith said with resignation.

Admittedly, I stood several feet away from Frankie and caught a whiff of something funky. After placing Frankie on the exam table I proceeded to examine him from head to tail.

“Dr. Smith, you’re a dentist so I think you can appreciate my line of questioning. How often do you brush Frankie’s teeth and what type of toothpaste do you use?” I queried.

“I don’t think I’ve ever brushed his teeth. Was I supposed to?” he responded.

After a subtle admonishing glare I explained that dog owners should brush their pet’s teeth daily. Dental disease can affect animals, and unfortunately bad breath is not the only ill effect. We scheduled a dental cleaning under anesthesia at which time I could do a better job probing and assessing Frankie’s teeth. I warned Dr. Smith of the possibility of some extractions.

Two weeks later Frankie was anesthetized so that we could clean his teeth and determine the source of his bad breath. As I probed and evaluated his teeth and gums I made a shocking discovery. All in all, I needed to extract 18 teeth.

Nervously I called Dr. Smith at his office and had his receptionist interrupt his ongoing procedure. I explained the situation, then anxiously waited for the “You’ve got to be kidding! Will he be able eat?” response.

Instead however, Dr. Smith asked me to do whatever was necessary to make Frankie comfortable.

Whew, 18 teeth to be extracted is alarming news to most people, but I guess a dentist understood the necessity.

After the procedure, we placed Frankie on some pain medication and antibiotics to ensure comfort and reduce the chance of post-op infection.

Discharge instructions included a plan to keep his remaining 24 teeth healthy (dogs have a total of 42 teeth).

I called Dr. Smith a couple of days later to check on our little patient. I was a little worried about Frankie’s appetite given the amount of teeth removed, but Dr. Smith said Frankie was eating just fine. In fact, he ran around and seemed peppier after the procedure. We came to the conclusion that Frankie felt better because he probably lived with 18 toothaches for quite some time.

Removing the teeth gave him relief rather than pain.

The teeth we extracted from Frankie were important for catching prey, tearing at flesh and gnawing on bones.

If he lived in the wild Frankie would be at a clear disadvantage. In the cushy comfort of his home, however, he didn’t skip a beat. Fresh smelling breath outweighed functional fangs.

I guess sometimes the wild side is not so wild after all.

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