Penny the Shetland Sheepdog had foul smelling breath

Many people might not notice if their pet’s breath gets a bit stinky, but Penny has a particular behaviour that meant that Marie couldn’t avoid noticing when Penny developed halitosis. Penny weighs 20kg – around three stone – but she behaves as if she is a teacup-sized puppy. She’s far too big to be a lap dog, but this doesn’t stop her trying. When Marie is sitting in an armchair reading the newspaper, Penny clambers up around the side, pushing her way into Marie’s lap. She then sits there, squashed into the small space behind the newspaper, pushing her nose right beside Marie’s face, as if she is also trying to read about what’s going on in the world.

Marie noticed that Penny had foul dog-breath

It was when Penny was sitting beside her like this that Marie received a full-on blast in the face with Penny’s dog-breath. The smell was so bad that at first Marie thought that Penny must have rolled in something rotten, but after checking her, it was clear that the smell was coming from her mouth. She knew at once that there was something wrong with Penny’s dental health: no normal dog should have breath that smelt so unpleasant. Marie brought her up to see me for a dental check up.
When I examined Penny’s mouth, I found the typical dental problems that are often seen in older dogs. She had a build-up of tartar on her teeth, with a dark brown accumulation of caked-on material around her tooth roots. This was pressing on her gums, causing inflammation and infection. She also had infected tooth roots, and some of her teeth were loose. There was no doubt that Penny needed a thorough dental clean up under general anaesthesia, but there was something “extra” that I couldn’t put my finger on. The foul smell from her breath was far worse than I’d expect from most dogs with dental disease. I hoped that the reason would become obvious once we started carrying out detailed work on her mouth.

A thorough inspection was needed

Penny was given a general anaesthetic, and I was then able to carry out a close, thorough inspection of her oral cavity. I wore an operating mask, as usual. The main reason for such masks is to control the spread of bacterial infection, but in Penny’s case, the mask served a double function of also limiting the intensity of the bad smell reaching my nostrils. Penny needed the usual “dental clean up”, extracting several teeth with rotten roots, removing tartar from the rest of her teeth and polishing the surface of her teeth so that they were as gleaming and healthy as possible. It was while I was doing this that one of my veterinary nurses spotted something unusual – which happened to be the main cause of that awful foul smell. Penny must have chewed on a piece of wire at some stage, and a section of tubular plastic had managed to work its way onto one of her teeth, like an elongated, cylindrical ring being pushed onto a finger. The piece of plastic had been pushed up so that it was half-buried in Penny’s gums, and it had caused a deep, infected ulcer. As soon as I removed this piece of plastic and flushed out the damaged area of gums, the foul smell began to clear.
Marie collected Penny that evening, and straight away, she noticed that the smell had gone. Penny’s breath might not smell as sweet as roses, but it was certainly far more pleasant than it had been. Penny can continue in her role as lap dog without causing any further offence.  


  • Healthy animals do not have foul smelling breath
  • Good dental care ensures that pets have healthy mouths for as long as possible


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