If you smell something unpleasant when close to your pet but can't find the source, check his teeth for signs of dental disease. Disease of the teeth and gums is far more common than you might expect, and can be a source of significant pain if left unattended. Small bits of food and bacteria form dental tartar, which sticks to your pet's teeth causing an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. This inflammation can result in bleeding, infection, pain and sometimes tooth loss. Dental disease is a common finding on physical exam in both dogs and cats and requires some intervention to correct and prevent its recurrence.
Many people think that pet's teeth stay naturally clean through chewing food. In many cases, pet's teeth are in good shape well into their older years without any special care. However, there are a significant number of pets that, by virtue of their breed, diet, facial structure, etc., will have a higher incidence of recurring dental disease.
Your veterinarian can examine your pet to determine if there is any existing dental disease that needs medical or surgical attention. Once those teeth are returned to clean and shiny, there are a number of steps that may be recommended to maintain a healthy mouth. Recently added to the arsenal of pet dental care products are special foods that are designed to help prevent tartar formation. These tartar control diets often eliminate or greatly reduce the number of health related problems caused by recurring dental disease.
Tartar control diets differ from regular pet food in that they are designed to act like a natural toothbrush for you pet. The size of the kibble is larger, and is designed not to break apart as easily. The teeth must penetrate the pieces to reduce the size; so chewing the kibble acts to brush your pet's teeth. Natural fiber in the food aids the cleaning action. When the tartar is reduced, the gum disease is often reversed, avoiding ongoing dental procedures.
These new foods have been designed as balanced diets, so if recurring dental disease is a problem with your pet, a tartar control food can be your pet's complete diet. If your pet has any other medical conditions being managed with a prescription food, your veterinarian may add a small portion of tartar control diet as a supplement or snack.
Some dental disease is so advanced that your pet may require oral health care until a change in diet can be made. Loose teeth, infections, exposed tooth roots and severe cases of tartar build up are best attended by your pet's veterinarian before a tartar diet is considered.