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D2002-03

Dear Daisy Dog

My 13-year-old Toy Poodle, Marcy, has horrible breath! What do you suggest?

Daisy Responds

Look carefully at her teeth and gums, and you'll probably find the problem: a buildup of calculus (tartar) and plaque. Her gums may be inflamed (called gingivitis), infected, and painful as a result.

The infection in her gums can easily travel through her bloodstream to her kidneys, liver, and heart valves, so be sure to ask your veterinarian to do blood work and a urinalysis.

Treatment may include any or all of the following: scaling the tartar off the teeth, polishing the teeth to prevent plaque from sticking so easily in the future, extraction of any teeth that are so loose they will only serve as magnets for infection in the future, and antibiotics before and after the procedure.

To minimize dental problems in the future, feed dry food (which cleans the teeth better than canned food) and brush her teeth with dog toothpaste. Ask her veterinarian to examine her every 6 to 12 months to detect problems early, before they cause her pain -- or bad breath. After all, you want her kisses to smell as good as they feel!

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