The conditions that lead up to periodontal disease take some time to build up, but once the initial infections begin, the disease can progress quickly. If allowed to advanced, periodontal disease will cause an entire new set of problems and health risks that could be fatal for your cat or dog. The good news is you can most often avoid serious periodontal disease by taking care of your pet’s teeth from a young age and avoid these issues altogether.
Just as in humans, periodontal disease in cats and dogs is an infection caused by bacteria in the mouth. The root of the problem is poor oral hygiene. If bacteria isn’t washed away from your pet’s teeth (through brushing or, in some instances, chewing on appropriate toys and food) it leads to a buildup of plaque and hard tartar on the surfaces of teeth around the gums. Plaque releases toxins that damage bone and tissue surrounding the teeth. In addition, this buildup in the mouth stimulates an immune response that will help destroy the bacteria, but, the same process that eradicates the bad bacteria can damage the attachment of the tooth.
The rise of bacteria also leads to the development of deep pockets between the teeth and the gums. These get deeper as time passes. The oral pockets may also become infected, which will cause your pet’s gums to soften and become mushy. The gums will begin to recede, exposing more and more of each tooth in an affected area of the mouth. Pus may ooze from these infected gums as well. In this state, your pet’s breath may have a fetid odor. Also, chewing can be extremely painful for your pet, leading to malnutrition and other health issues.
Tooth and Bone Loss
As the oral pockets deepen, they trap more bacteria and the cycle continues. In the last stages of periodontal disease, your pet will begin to lose teeth and may suffer jaw bone loss. In some small breeds, there may also be fractures resulting from these conditions.
Who’s At Risk?
Any dog or cat can develop periodontal disease, but small dogs may have a greater risk because they usually don’t chew on toys for play as often (which helps to fights plaque buildup). Small dogs may also have more tooth crowding above the gum, which promotes tartar buildup; this is especially an issue for round-headed breeds such as Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, and Bulldogs.
Cats often face the same dental problems as small breed dogs. Cats are also more likely to develop periodontal disease if they only eat canned food that is soft versus dry food that can require more chewing.
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.