Almost all dogs and cats suffer from dental problems at some point in their lives. Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is the most common oral disease among these pets. Characterized by painful infections that can lead to tooth loss, periodontal disease can be managed and even prevented altogether when strict attention is paid to good oral hygiene. You should also be sure that your veterinarian checks your pet’s teeth and gums regularly since you may not notice signs of a problem until the condition has become serious. Avoiding advanced stage periodontal disease is important since evidence shows it is tied to kidney, heart, muscle, and liver disorders.
Bacteria in the mouth that is not cleaned away via daily brushing and other means of good oral hygiene will accumulate on teeth. This leads to a buildup of plaque, which releases toxins that destroy teeth and the underlining bone and tissue that support teeth. Pets that have significant tooth crowding, such as round-headed breeds of dogs (Pugs, Boston Terriers, Boxers, etc.), and those that don’t chew frequently enough (such as cats on a mostly canned, soft food diet) are more at risk for periodontal disease.
The first sign you may notice is bad breath. Although, by the time you become aware of the smell of your pet’s breath, it’s likely your car or dog has been suffering silently with pain due to infections and sores. This pain may lead to a refusal to eat and changes in personality, which can be early signs that that you can watch for.
The best way to manage gum disease is to follow a daily brushing regimen. You may only need to spend a few seconds cleaning your pet’s teeth, paying careful attention to the areas along the gum line. Giving your pet appropriate chew treats can also prevent gum disease by stimulating saliva that will rinse bacteria away before it can cause plaque buildup. If periodontal disease progresses, your pet may need to be sedated so that your veterinarian can clean and treat the teeth. Antibiotics such as metronidazole for cats and dogs and pain medication may be necessary following these treatments.
Taking time to brush and check your pet’s teeth and gums is an important part of caring for your pet’s overall health. In addition to helping to prolong the life of your cat and dog, healthy teeth and gums can improve your pet’s life and ensure you enjoy more happy, playful days together.
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.