Over the last few weeks, we have been discussing problems associated with the lips in particular. Let’s begin today with maladies that occur within the mouth.


General symptoms


pet cornerHow do you know that there is an ailment in the mouth? The first sign that may intimate that there is a problem is that the animal would go off its food (inappetence). Other signs would be increased salivation (drooling), shaking of the head, scratching the mouth or rubbing the lips on objects. These latter symptoms are often associated with any of numerous inflammatory conditions in the mouth.

One very prominent symptom of an ailment of the oral cavity is bad breath. You may see in the literature (even in popular pet books written for the layman) references being made to “Halitosis” or “Foetor ex ore”. Well, they all mean the same thing: an obnoxious odour emanating from the mouth. Simply, bad breath. It must be clearly understood that Halitosis is in fact just a symptom, not the disease itself.

On other occasions, the gums may look swollen and reddened and they are very tender to the touch. Actually, gums could begin haemorrhaging at the slightest impact. In fact, dogs and cats with mouth maladies tend to pull away their heads if you try to open their mouths to have a look inside.

They will not want to eat. Again, this condition of swollen and red gums indicates a sign that there is a more fundamental problem either in the mouth itself or in an organ far removed from the oral cavity. We will, at a later date, deal with these other diseases and how they reflect themselves as symptoms in the mouth.

There are variations of those symptoms mentioned in the last paragraph. For example, the swelling and the redness can take on a beefy appearance and bleed even without your intervention. The salvia (drooling) is sometimes mixed with pus, it can be slimy and red/brown in colour.

Oral ulcers (erosion of the tissue lining the mouth) represent a symptom which tells us that there is a painful problem with bacterial association in the mouth. Similarly, tumours and warts can be in the oral cavity creating great discomfort. Salivary gland cysts develop from time to time on the floor of the mouth, pushing the tongue to one side. And, of course, a tartar (plaque) build-up on the teeth is a reflection of poor dental hygiene and the precursor to more serious oral problems later on.

Finally, I should mention that dogs with oral ailments, especially when combined with heavy, stained salvia discharge, concomitantly exhibit discoloured muzzles and front legs, which comes from the contamination by the saliva as the animal scratches its mouth.

In a nutshell, here are the more salient symptoms of ailments within the oral cavity:


  • Loss of appetite


  • Drooling (saliva may be discoloured, contaminated with blood/pus).


  • Scratching of the mouth


  • Foul breath


  • Red and swollen gums


Tumours, growths (eg warts), foreign bodies (eg thorns, wood splinters, etc), tartar on the teeth, tooth decay are all oral problems with which vets are confronted on a daily basis. You will read more about these in the following weeks.

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.

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