Have you ever wanted your pet’s breath to be fresher than it currently is? If you haven’t, I’d have to wonder whether your relationship might be suffering for lack of routine proximity. 

Everyone’s different, though. So I wouldn’t blame you if you preferred to keep your distance. After all, pet breath can get nasty in a hurry — especially if your pet belongs to one of the foul-mouthed breeds we keep.

Tiny dogs of all stripes, red-bred felines, sighthounds … all predisposed to foul breath. So it’s not their fault when their periodontal disease leads to halitosis. They were born that way. Then there are all the other causes of bad breath to consider: diet, digestion, disease … dental health is but one aspect.

Still, it’s your job as caretaker to keep watch and head off any heavy-duty diseases. In other words, regardless of the cause, you’re responsible for all that odor.

Which is probably what’s gotten you to wondering whether all those water-based "breath fresheners" out there are worth their salt. I mean, what do they do anyway?

Some contain enzymes that break down plaque. Others offer breath freshening ingredients. All promise better dental health without brushing.

Which is why the board-certified veterinary dentists I know have pooh-poohed these breath-freshening water additives. At best, they consider them akin to the "apple a day" approach (in other words, it may help a little bit but will never replace brushing). At worst, they don't work.

So why spend your hard earned money on products that will make little difference to your pet's oral health? That’s even more true when some of these products contain xylitol, a sugar substitute whose: a) short-term effects on dogs are proven toxic; and b) long-term effects are unknown.

While their presence in these oral supplements are way below known toxic levels, it still bugs me. After all I have done (and am doing) to raise the profile of xylitol’s deadliness, the pet breath-freshener people go and stick it in their dog products.

Now, normally I’m no naysayer of products where "do no harm" gets the respect it deserves. And despite the pesky presence of xylitol, these products are considered very, very safe. But when they’re used to replace proven means of treatment I start to get my hackles up. Hence, my issue with these pet-oriented, breath-freshening water solutions that are designed to replace simple brushing (daily, preferably) and yearly anesthetic dentistry.

Because when unproven methods are touted as superior to those that have been tried and true — according to the scientific method — I start to worry that my clients will start to gravitate towards the "easier" approach on the basis of a sticky sales pitch.

Sure, if you’ve ever attempted the "easy" angle you’ll know soon enough that the breath freshening isn’t happening to the tune of your outlay. Still, sometimes it seems easier (and guilt-alleviating) to pay a little every day than to come up with larger chunk up front for dentals. I get it. But it’s at this point that I’ll remind you: There’s no free lunch. It’s either brush early and often, or get routine dentistry (sometimes both). And, of course, see your vet should extra-dental halitosis plague you and your pet.

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: "Chewer of all plastic things" by TheGiantVermin