It’s estimated that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, although problems can start at a much younger age. While there are several different oral diseases that can affect your pet, periodontal disease is the most common in dogs and cats. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease can be extremely painful and debilitating. It can also lead to serious health problems in other parts of the body. To avoid complications, you should be aware of these key symptoms, signs that your dog or cat may need periodontal treatment.
Animals are naturally predisposed try to mask pain (a trait that’s important to survival in the wild but a disadvantage for domesticated pets). This means that you may miss the earliest symptoms of periodontal disease, pain or discomfort. Thus, your pet may not whimper or cry when food or pressure irritates the affected area in the mouth. You may notice, however, that a pet only chews food on one side, refuses to eat, or drops food from the mouths while trying to chew. You may also find that some pets with periodontal disease, especially cats, will have an aversion to hot or cold foods. If you see these signs, check your pet’s gums for inflammation, bleeding, and sensitivity.
You may assume that it’s normal for pet breath to be a bit foul. What’s known as “dog breath” or “cat breath,” though, is usually a sign of dental disease. If you notice that pets have bad breath even when they haven’t eaten anything that would cause a bad smell to linger (garbage, feces, unusual food, etc.), you should consider having a veterinarian evaluate your pet.
Other Symptoms to Watch
The pain and inflammation associated with periodontal disease can cause other changes in your pet’s appearance and behavior, including:
- Bleeding along the gum line (especially after you brush your pet’s teeth)
- Vomiting whole pieces of food that weren’t properly chewed
- Poor grooming in cats
- Lethargy and lack of playfulness
Without proper treatment and, in some cases, lifestyle changes, your dog is at risk for tooth loss. Also, because periodontal disease weakens bones in the mouth, pets may suffer a jaw fracture. This is most likely to occur in small breed dogs of advanced age. Pets with this condition are also at risk for sepsis, an infection of the bloodstream that can be life threatening.
Studies are increasingly showing that poor oral hygiene can impact a pet’s overall health. Periodontal disease may contribute to infections of the heart, lungs, or kidneys; cancer; arthritis; and heart failure. It may also aggravate diabetes
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 with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.