Bad breath is not always bad teeth.

It could be kidney failure, it could be advanced diabetes, it could simply be that your pet has eaten something that smells really bad… poop, for instance.

And then there are those unexpected things.  Pepper was in for a check-up in September.  I talked with the owner about the accumulation of dental tartar, and how that's a bad thing.  "Well, you just cleaned them recently."  Time flies — it was over two years ago. "Well, I'll think about it."  [This actually means "No; and after I leave here, I won't be thinking about it."]

Then, in the past couple of weeks, Pepper began to develop really bad breath.  This forced his mom to make good on her promise to "…think about it."  The more stinky he got, the more she thought about it.  Finally she thought about it enough to decide to get his teeth cleaned.

Pull string(2) And this is what I found.  Yes, he had a lot of tartar on his teeth (I didn't make that up in September), but that wasn't where most of the stinkiness was coming from.   This heavy thread was looped around an incisor tooth (#102 for you dental types) and he was trying to swallow the rest of it.  It was accumulating hair, bacteria, and assorted ooey-gooey.  It did stink (probably still does, if I were to fish it out of the trash). Since it was hooked on to his tooth, he couldn't really swallow it.  Part of it was in his mouth, part was in his esophagus.

String fb (2) It's fairly long, and it had damaged the gums pretty badly around the tooth.  The tooth was getting loose, so much so that I had to just extract it.  I guess he might have eventually swallowed the whole mess when the tooth finally came out, but then he could have developed an intestinal obstruction from the string (the old "linear foreign body").  That's the tooth there on the left (look closely).

Palate (2) This is the part that really bothers me.  The string was sawing back and forth all the time, eroding a groove in the roof of Pepper's mouth. Man, don't you know that feels better now? 

And don't go criticizing Pepper's owner.  If he wasn't such an uncooperative little mutt, she would have been brushing his teeth, and noticing the string, and taking it out.  Unfortunately, with this boy awake, it's hard to get a good look in his mouth.  In fact, it's hard to get your finger back in one piece. 

All's well that ends well… until our next episode.

5 thoughts on “Bad breath is not always bad teeth.

  1. Darlene Norris says:

    Wow, that’s really nasty. The poor dog; he sounds like a stinker, but he sure didn’t deserve that mess in his mouth. Guess the moral of the story is that if your dog or cat has bad breath, you’d better get it checked out by the vet!

  2. Mary Turzillo says:

    Dental scaling cannot be done without anaesthesia, right? I used to have my cats’ teeth scaled on a regular basis — until one of them nearly died from anaesthesia. She was relatively young — about five years — and otherwise healthy, So, that’s one reason people “think about it.” My neighbor has the same issue with her elderly dog.

    Assuming that pet owners are stupid or cheap or lazy is not a good way to communicate. You need to present all sides and admit downsides as well as benefits. That way, pet owners will share concerns. Maybe they still will elect not to get certain procedures, and you will disapprove, but the animal won’t necessarily be worse off.

    Lurker nearly died. She had to be taken back to the vet and kept for two nights.

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Mary,

    “Assuming that pet owners are stupid or cheap or lazy is not a good way to communicate. You need to present all sides and admit downsides as well as benefits.”

    You are so right. I neither assume nor believe those things, and deeply regret conveying the impression that I do.

    If anesthesia were good for you, you wouldn’t lose consciousness. Most of the time we are able to manage it successfully, but there are always risks. I lost a good friend who had an “outpatient procedure” in an ENT specialist’s office. His wife didn’t bother to come with him, as they told him he would be able to drive himself home. Died in the chair. There are always risks.

    The other side of the coin is a refusal to consider the benefits of the procedure and (most importantly) the risks of allowing the disease to continue because of a fixed idea that “anesthesia is too dangerous”.

    Any procedure must be approached from a risk versus benefit perspective.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  4. california teeth whitening says:

    What ever,if you have a kind of problem like this (tartar) or so ever do something to prevent this it so yuck! and for sure anyone doesn’t like to smelled a bad breath from you,gosh! is really so hard to used a toothbrush three times a day?

    by: florence

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