Let us turn today to a problem which I had promised to address some time ago – bad breath (halitosis) in dogs, and the supposed cures associated with this problem.
How do we cure bad breath which is caused mostly by bacterial build-up in the mouth?
Anti-germ treatment for a mutt’s mouth? Toothpaste for dogs? You must be thinking that this whole dog care business is getting crazy. Well, sometimes I think so too. Much of the hype has to do with commercialism. The pet business in Europe and North America is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. So everyone gets in on the act and makes a product which, in some way, shape and form, is supposed to be good for dogs. Since Americans are the best salesmen in the world (who else can sell a ‘pet rock’ or make billions from a plastic circle called the hoola-hoop), they can excite a pet-loving public to purchase any commodity. And since we in Guyana are born followers and imitators, we too fall prey to the big sell.
The fact of the matter is that there is a multiplicity of products on the market purporting to aid in the maintenance of oral health. I have seen a ‘Maxi-gard’ spray and gel (usually available through a vet) and a product called ‘Breath Friend’ both of which are supposed to kill germs and heal gum tissue, thus reducing bad breath. The latter product is zinc based and is scientifically patented. Usually, such products are odourless and taste-free (as they should be, any mint taste, for example, would elicit great quantities of slime and slobbering). Many of them do not yield success.
Some people recommend cigar ash and even black sage twigs as cleaning agents. Well, while I can support the latter, I surely can’t advise you to get into the revolting habit of ash production from cigars or cigarettes.
Gingivitis and tooth decay are the most common causes of bad breath. Just take a look at the relevant ‘Pet Corner’ articles on those diseases (October 4, October 11, November 15, November 22, 2009).
I should mention that very often, puppies tend to have malodorous breaths. This is usually associated with teething and immature digestive tracts. Since these conditions are temporary, the bad breath will go away as soon as the teething is over and the digestive tract development has stabilized itself. One could use some aloe vera gel (rub it on the gums, 3-4 times daily) to minimize the discomfort of teething and the accompanying swelling.
Finally, I should mention, in passing, that if a dog has urinous breath, that could be a more serious condition involving a kidney ailment. We’ll discuss kidney ailments on another more appropriate occasion.
Finally, the best advice I can give you, relative to oral hygiene, has already been given. That’s when we discussed the use of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and hydrochloric acid.
I think we have exhausted this oral hygiene theme. We’ll now commence with another disease of the oral cavity, viz pharyngitis (sore throat).
The simplest definition for this condition would be to say that it is an inflammation of the pharynx. Colloquially, the pharynx is another name for the throat.
The pharynx is an irregularly funnel-shaped passage situated at the back of the oral cavity. This area is common to both the respiratory (breathing) and digestive passages. It acts really as a crossroad between these two systems. The walls of the pharynx are composed of muscles which are actively associated with the swallowing motion. It is important to recognize that the inner lining of the pharynx is the mucous membrane – the same covering lining that begins at the inside of the lip and covers the entire ‘tube’ from the mouth to the rectum. (OK, enough already of this anatomy lesson).
Perhaps I should begin by stating that pharyngitis, although frequently referred to as a disease really is only a symptom and not a disease in itself. Pharyngitis often accompanies (or is the sequel to) systemic infections diseases (for example, those of the respiratory system) and is frequently associated with inflammation of adjacent tissues. For example, if the animal has a rhinitis (inflammation of the nose, which itself may be associated with a more fundamental ailment like canine distemper), the spin-off may be a pharyngitis
Also, other viral infections or types of air pollutants may be the initial causes of a pharyngitis. Any abnormality which irritates the pharynx can create lesions on the mucous membrane lining or in the muscles of the pharynx. Any trauma (a blow, for example, or foreign bodies stuck in the pharynx) could precipitate a pharyngitis. The unskilled use of instruments (eg the giving, via a syringe, of oral medicine to a fidgety patient could result in the bruising of the pharynx.)
Inhalation or ingestion of certain harsh drugs and chemicals could cause intense irritation of the pharynx. The eating of hot foods or liquids, especially by dogs, is often the prime cause of an acute pharyngitis.
Some anatomical factors, like the elongation of the soft palate or inherent defects of those short-faced toy breeds can lead to respiratory distress and nasal regurgitation (vomiting), which in turn could lead to both a pharyngitis as well as a tonsillitis.
We will continue the discussion on pharyngitis next week, and perhaps deal with the tonsilitis malady.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals. Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.