Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Dragon Breath" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Dragon Breath

Smokey walked towards his owner, Ms. Carol Careowner, and she absent-mindedly stretched her arm full length to give him a scratch, and at the same time keep him as far away from her as possible. Following a scratch behind the ears, she told him to go lie down. Smokey got the same result when he went to other members of the family. Finally he did go and lie down.

While Smokey is his real name and it was given to him because of the beautiful, rather elusive color of his coat, he has come to be known as Dragon Breath.

Poor Smokey. If only someone in the household would get close enough to him it would become clear that while, yes, he definitely has a breath problem, he also has another reason for the foul smell associated with him. Why haven't these "caring" owners noticed that he shakes his head a lot? True, they did treat him for fleas when they noticed the scratching, but why haven't they figured out that even though he has been de-fleaed with the best product around (Frontline, in case you are interested!) he still scratches -- but only around his ears?

Heck, these are such caring folks that after the flea treatment, they did send him out for a bath with a "professional" groomer! Upon his return the attitude was, "Well, we have done what we can. And, go lie down, Smokey."

So, what is the trouble? Two different problems are giving Smokey (AKA Dragon Breath) pain, physical stress and, yes, emotional stress because he cannot get the attention that he needs because he is a pack animal.

First, there is definitely the smell that originates from his mouth. That, folks, is from decaying gums and maybe even teeth! Not only are those gums rotting away, but the infection resulting from that rotting is slowly killing dear old' Smokey. Stress on kidneys, liver and heart (just for starters!) can only go on for so long before something gives way. Should we even discuss the pain being suffered meanwhile?

Second, is that "other" smell. This smell comes from his ears. "Things" are growing little colonies of pain in there and, until someone takes the time to look in his ears, there is little chance of improvement. Ears need to be checked regularly to be certain that they are clean. If there is a recurrence of dark gooey stuff it may well be an infection that requires veterinary care in the way of deep cleaning (often under a general anesthetic because of the pain involved!) and treatment. Preceding the smell, one of the first clues of trouble is an unusual accumulation of "crud" in the ear.

That means, folks, check ears regularly!

Drop-eared dogs may well be predisposed to trouble since air circulation is reduced. Poodles require special care. Cocker Spaniels also come to mind. But, whatever your breed, do give at least a weekly inspection to the insides of the ears. To clean the ears there are some products you may buy to put in the ear, massage for a moment and then stand back while the head shaking takes place. It's best done out of doors! The smallest item you are allowed to insert for cleaning is a cloth-covered finger sweeping gently around the crevices.

Back to the mouth. Once a dog's permanent teeth are in place attention must be given to them and to the dog to be certain that the teeth will be around for the life of the dog. Kibble will not clean teeth no matter what the manufacturers try to tell you. Small breeds have a much worse problem with their teeth than more normal-sized breeds, but all dogs require proper chewing experience to avoid the need to be anesthetized for cleaning purposes. For my dogs "proper chewing" is achieved with raw (never cooked!) bones. [Please see Charlotte's Recommended Reading.]

Care for your dog's teeth. Check those ears. Don't have a Dragon Breath guy at your house!

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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