Q. How can I improve my dog's breath?

A: The best way to address your dog's persistently pungent breath is by improving his oral hygiene routine.

Take him to the vet once a year to have his teeth cleaned; also, have his mouth checked for broken or abscessed teeth, which can lead to a buildup of odor-causing bacteria, says Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M., author of "Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats" (Three Rivers Press, 2001).

Brush your dog's teeth daily if you can. Choose a toothpaste that's formulated for dogs, or better yet, ask your vet to prescribe a paste with an anti-bacterial ingredient, such as chlorhexidine.

Start by wrapping your finger with some gauze, put the paste on your finger, then rub the paste on your dog's teeth.

It's also a good idea to provide your pet with toys that encourage him to chew, as this helps loosen tartar deposits, where bacteria thrive.

Messonnier recommends avoiding animal products that can contain harmful chemicals or break dogs' teeth, such as rawhide, pig ears and hooves.

Instead, opt for artificial bones and chews that are labeled completely digestible; consider those that are also enhanced with eucalyptus and other ingredients that sweeten breath.

Messonnier recommends breath-freshening products containing chlorophyll, which helps fight oral bacteria. Scan labels for alfalfa and wheatgrass, too; both are good sources of chlorophyll.

Persistent bad breath can be a symptom of a larger problem, such as periodontal disease. More-serious ailments include oral cancers and gastrointestinal and kidney conditions.

Contact a vet if your dog's bad breath returns within a week of a professional cleaning.

Q. What's the best way to keep bread crumbs from falling off chicken or fish when pan-frying?

A: Use a three-step breading process.

First coat both sides of the meat lightly with flour, then dip into a mixture of one lightly beaten egg and a small amount of milk or water before breading the meat.

The flour creates a dry surface for the egg to stick to, while the egg helps the breading adhere. Then dip the meat in bread crumbs, taking care not to overcoat. Pat or press the crumbs firmly onto the meat; gently shake off any excess, and discard.

Choose a skillet that's large enough to accommodate a single layer of fish or chicken without overcrowding, or cook in batches.

Heat a small amount of oil in the skillet on medium-high until a pinch of bread crumbs sizzles when dropped in the oil.

If the oil is not hot enough, the breading will absorb too much of it, become soggy, and possibly slide off.

Carefully turn the pieces of meat with tongs or a spatula. Between batches, remove excess crumbs from the skillet with a slotted spoon to avoid burning. *

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. Questions may also be sent by electronic mail to: mslletters@marthastewart.com.