On the nose

June 11th, 2013

Dear Dogs Life,

I’m worried about my dog’s teeth. He had quite bad breath, so about two months ago he had a scale and polish under anaesthetic, which went well. The vet said his teeth were generally good, though there had been a bit of decay on his incisors. For a couple of weeks his breath was fine, but now it has started to become really smelly again. What could be causing this and is there anything I can do? He’s five, eats a good diet and is generally very healthy.

– Eric, WA

Dr Renee O’Duhring says: Tartar and plaque are common causes of smelly breath in dogs; however, an overlooked cause is often diet and digestive function. The dog is a carnivore and is designed to thrive on fresh raw meat, organ meats, bones, a small amount of plant matter, and some scavenged foods. Very few commercial pet foods or homemade diets consist of these ingredients in the correct proportion. In contrast, most pet foods are full of poor quality ingredients that are inappropriate for the canine’s digestive make-up, including grains, which are a complex carbohydrate. A dog’s stomach is designed to process primarily raw proteins and fats, but cannot process these well when they are cooked, or when mixed with complex carbohydrates. Instead the food will ferment in the stomach, gastric emptying will be delayed, and smelly breath often results.

Other causes of smelly breath can be internal medical disorders such as diabetes or immune system dysfunction, which should have been ruled out with a thorough physical examination and pre-anaesthetic blood tests prior to your dog having a general anaesthetic.

You have said that your dog eats “a good diet”, but no details have been provided. If the breath is a concern to you, or there are any other symptoms of ill-health, such as skin disorders, recurrent ear infections, digestive upset or obesity, consider transitioning your dog to a balanced, natural, wholefoods diet. A consultation with a Holistic Vet will determine your dog’s individual dietary needs and the best natural diet for him.

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