Overview offensive odor coming from the mouth; bad breath (halitosis) Signalment/Description of Pet



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Bad Breath

(Halitosis)



Basics

OVERVIEW

  • Offensive odor coming from the mouth; bad breath (halitosis)

Signalment/Description of Pet

  • Dogs

  • Cats

  • Small breeds and short-nosed, flat-faced breeds (known as “brachycephalic breeds”) are more prone to disease involving the mouth, because their teeth are closer together

  • Older pets are more likely to have bad breath (halitosis) than are young pets

Signs/Observed Changes in the Pet

  • Bad breath or halitosis is a sign itself

  • If due to oral disease, excessive salivation (known as “ptyalism”), with or without blood, may be seen; the pet may paw at the mouth; and lack of appetite (anorexia) may occur

  • In most cases, no clinical signs other than actual odor are observed

Causes

  • Metabolic—diabetes mellitus (“sugar diabetes”), uremia (excess levels of urea and other nitrogenous waste products in the blood)

  • Respiratory—inflammation of the nose or nasal passages (known as “rhinitis”); inflammation of the sinuses (known as “sinusitis”); cancer

  • Gastrointestinal—enlargement of the esophagus (the tube going from the throat to the stomach; condition known as “megaesophagus”); cancer; foreign body

  • Dermatologic—infection of the skin folds of the lips (known as “lip-fold pyoderma”)

  • Dietary—eating malodorous or offensive-smelling foodstuffs; eating feces or bowel movement (known as “coprophagy”)

  • Disease of the mouth—infection of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth (known as “periodontal disease”) and/or ulceration of the tissues of the mouth; inflammation of the throat or pharynx (known as “pharyngitis”); inflammation of the tonsils (known as “tonsillitis”); cancer; foreign bodies

  • Trauma—electric-cord injury, open fractures, caustic agents

  • Infectious—bacterial, fungal, viral

  • Autoimmune diseases

  • Diseases characterized by one or more masses or nodular lesions in the mouth containing a type of white-blood cell, called an eosinophil (known as “eosinophilic granuloma complex”)

Risk Factors

  • Small breeds and short-nosed, flat-faced breeds (known as “brachycephalic breeds”) are more prone to disease involving the mouth, because their teeth are closer together; smaller pets live longer; and their owners tend to feed softer food

Treatment

Health Care

  • Outpatient

  • Once the specific cause of the bad breath (halitosis) is known, direct therapy at correcting the cause; it is possible that multiple causes may be involved (for example, the pet may have infection of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth [periodontal disease] and have a foreign body or cancer present in the mouth)

  • Dental disease—assessment of the mouth, performed under general anesthesia, with x-rays of the mouth (known as “intraoral radiographs”) and treatment, including cleaning and polishing the teeth and extraction of teeth with greater than 50% loss of supporting tissues (gum and bone) around the teeth (often multiple teeth are extracted when advanced periodontal disease is the cause of the bad breath (halitosis)

  • Cancer of the mouth—surgical debulking (removing as much of the tumor as possible) or removal; radiation therapy; other cancer therapies, based on type of cancer

  • Foreign body—removal of foreign body (may require anesthesia)

  • Dermatologic causes—treatment for infection of the folds of the lips may include antibiotics, antibacterial shampoos, and possible surgery to remove some of the folded tissue

  • Dietary causes—prevent pet from eating malodorous foodstuffs (for example, keep pet away from garbage); prevent pet from eating bowel movement (for example, block off litter box so dog cannot get to cat feces; clean yard frequently)

Medications

    Medications presented in this section are intended to provide general information about possible treatment. The treatment for a particular condition may evolve as medical advances are made; therefore, the medications should not be considered as all inclusive

  • Medication is determined by the underlying cause of the bad breath (halitosis)

  • Topical treatment with zinc-ascorbate cysteine gel usually reduces bad breath within 30 minutes of application, because of the effect of cysteine on sulfur compounds in the mouth

  • Antibiotics are not indicated to treat bad breath (halitosis); antibiotics are indicated in the treatment of infection of the lip folds and for cases of rhinitis and/or sinusitis, if bacterial infection is involved

  • Controlling the bacteria that cause infection of the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth (periodontal disease) helps control dental infections and accompanying bad breath; Doxirobe Gel (Pfizer) may be used in dogs with periodontal disease

  • Weekly application of OraVet (Merial), a plaque prevention gel has been shown to decrease plaque (the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth; composed of bacteria, white-blood cells, food particles, and components of saliva)

  • The use of oral home-care products that contain metal ions, especially zinc, inhibits odor formation due to the affinity of the metal (zinc) ion to sulfur; zinc complexes with hydrogen sulfide to form insoluble zinc sulfide, decreasing the odor

  • Zinc ascorbate plus amino acid (Maxi/Guard Oral Cleansing Gel, Addison Biological Laboratory)

  • Chlorhexidine used as a rinse or paste also helps control plaque (the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth), decreasing eventual odor; many dental home-care products containing chlorhexidine are available commercially

Follow-Up Care

Patient Monitoring

  • Periodic examinations to monitor results of dental professional and home care

Preventions and Avoidance

  • Varies with underlying cause

  • Daily brushing or friction wipes to remove plaque (the thin, “sticky” film that builds up on the teeth) and control dental disease and odor

  • Prevent pet from eating malodorous foodstuffs (for example, keep pet away from garbage); prevent pet from eating bowel movement (for example, block off litter box so dog cannot get to cat feces; clean yard frequently)

Possible Complications

  • Varies with underlying cause

Expected Course and Prognosis

  • Varies with underlying cause

Key Points

  • Bad breath or halitosis is a sign; it is an offensive odor coming from the mouth

  • Bad breath (halitosis) generally indicates an unhealthy mouth

  • Once the specific cause of the bad breath (halitosis) is known, direct therapy at correcting the underlying cause

  • Ensure good oral health by professional and home dental care (such as brushing teeth) to decrease bad breath (halitosis)



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    Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline, Fifth Edition, Larry P. Tilley and Francis W.K. Smith, Jr. © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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