I have heard that a vaccine may be available some day to help prevent bad breath in dogs and cats. Is this true?
Samuel, Boise, ID
It is true. However, the vaccine is in the research stage and it may not be available for several years, if at all. And preventing bad breath would be a fringe benefit of the vaccine, not its main purpose.
Most bad breath in pets is caused by dental infections. Since pets don’t brush their teeth after each meal, food adheres to the teeth. Bacteria grow on the food, and then move into the gums and bones around the teeth, where they cause serious problems for the body. Bacteria also smell bad, which is why many pets have bad breath.
Although many different bacteria grow on the teeth, researchers are looking into a vaccine against one of the worst ones. If effective, this would slow the progress of dental disease in pets who receive it.
It is extremely unlikely that the vaccine could serve as an effective substitute for professional periodontal work or home care (such as brushing your pet’s teeth). However, it could serve as a useful tool in the fight against dental disease.
Also, remember that the vaccine’s main purpose would be to help fight against the many adverse health consequences of dental disease in pets. These include pain, weight loss, chronic inflammation, abscesses, sinus infections, broken jaws, diabetes, and possibly cancer among many others. However, the vaccine just might fight bad breath, too.