Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in dogs and cats. Food and nutrtion can be both a cause and solution.
Without regular oral hygiene--including sticking to a dental-health-friendly diet and receiving regular tooth brushings--plaque will begin to blanket your loved one’s teeth and gums. After a while, this can result in infection. If left untreated, periodontal disease could put pets at risk of issues with their kidneys, heart, and liver infections.
The good news is that the condition is treatable. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Dental College, “several ‘dental diets’ have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease.”
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
If you see the signs of these symptoms, set up an appointment with your vet:
- halitosis (bad breath)
- plaque and tartar buildup
- bleeding and receding gums
- inflammation of the gums
- loose or rotting teeth
You may also see these accompanying symptoms:
- tooth pain
- eating out of one side of the mouth
- disinterest in eating and playing
- lower energy levels
- nasal discharge
- cats may hiss at their food, if in pain
Treatment will likely include a dental cleaning. Problem teeth may need to be pulled. From there, regular checkups and maintenance like brushing your pet's teeth will help prevent future recurrence of the disease.
Dental-Health-Friendly Feeding Tips for Dogs and Cats
Good dental care will also include taking up other good habits at home, including these strategies for your pet’s food and nutrition.
- Serve nutritious, easy-to-swallow meals. Food that’s hard to swallow or sticks to teeth can get stuck in hard-to-reach-places and contribute to mouth problems.
- Try offering your pal foods that have been formulated to or found to promote dental health. These are usually high in plaque-scraping fiber and often are dry food products, which some animal health experts believe may be more beneficial than soft food.
- When looking for “dental” foods and treats, be sure to buy products containing the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance (VOHC) label, meaning there’s sound evidence that the benefits it touts have worked in tests.
- Give your dog rawhide products or chew treats, which have been found to be beneficial if chewed daily. Be mindful, though -- some dogs may have a tendency to swallow large chunks whole. This could lead to choking and gastrointestinal problems in some pets. Make sure you are around when your dog chews these “dentrifices” to ensure that your pet is not trying to swallow them whole!
- Since chew toys can also be beneficial if played with daily, consider adding a thin layer of peanut butter or a soft cheese on your pet’s plaything--doing so may lead to longer gnawing action.
- Consider additives for your pet’s water that have properties intended to increase oral hygiene.
- Avoid very hard items like cow hooves, dried bones found from nature, or hard nylon products that could increase your pet’s likelihood of having broken teeth.
Make Tooth Brushing Easier on Your Pet
If brushing your pet’s teeth is difficult, Texas A&M University, Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, recommends using gauze and beef or chicken broth for dogs or tuna water for cats to start, to get them used to the practice.
Others suggest having tooth brushing occur in close proximity to treat time, mealtime, or another activity your pet enjoys.
When you make the switch from broth, use toothpaste and mouthwash formulated for pets--the kind we use can hurt pets’ stomachs--and avoid the ingredient xylitol, which can lead to low blood sugar and liver toxicity issues. If your animal can’t stand the taste of toothpaste, even brushing teeth with water has been found to have benefits.
More on Pet Dental Health
How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth
How to Brush Your Cat's Teeth
19 Products that Clean Cat and Dog Teeth
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.