Periodontal Disease: The 5 Things You Should Know for Your Cat or Dog

Periodontal Disease: The 5 Things You Should Know for Your Cat or Dog
expert or vet photo
vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Gum disease is just as painful for your pet as it would be for you. Learn the top 5 facts about this disease and better protect your pet.

Dental pain and disease is just as miserable for cats and dogs as it is for people. Possibly, itโ€™s worse, but itโ€™s not just a matter of relieving discomfort, preventing and treating periodontal disease in pets is an extremely important part of maintaining your petโ€™s overall health since gum disease can contribute to other systemic diseases. These essential facts help to ensure you are aware of what you need to know about oral hygiene and managing periodontal disease.

1. Neglect Is a Factor in Periodontal Disease

Itโ€™s estimated that two-thirds of dog and cat owners do not regularly care of their petsโ€™ teeth at home. Itโ€™s unfortunate, because periodontal disease can be prevented or at least managed more easily by adhering to a daily brushing routine that takes just a few seconds. Using a finger brush to clean bacteria off the surface of the teeth and a toothbrush to clean the gum line, can keep plaque from building up.  Regular oral checkups and the use of chew treats can also help keep your petโ€™s gums and teeth healthy.

2. Daily Cleaning Can Make a Difference

Dedicate less than 30 second per day to cleaning teeth, paying special attention to the gum line. The first step is to have the right tools. Never use fluoride toothpaste or baking soda on a petโ€™s teeth. Instead, look for a pet toothpaste that has anti-plaque ingredients . People toothpaste is dangerous for pets, because fluoride can cause heavy-metal toxicity and gastrointestinal problems for cats and dogs.

3. Chewing Helps

Chewing promotes good oral health. Giving your pet chew treats that promote the release of saliva can help boost oral health because saliva actually washes away the bacteria that might otherwise develop into plaque. Ask your veterinarian to recommend chew treats that are appropriate for your pet since not all brands are made equally and not all help stave off periodontal disease.

4. Itโ€™s Easy to Miss the Signs of Dental Disease

Symptoms of periodontal disease may appear slowly and may not be obvious. In fact, your pet may show no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Part of the reason is that animals tend to mask pain (the first symptom that occurs with periodontal disease). Another symptom, bad breath, is often mistakenly thought to be โ€œnormalโ€ in pets. Other common signs of a dental problem such as loss of appetite or inactivity are sometimes (at least initially) thought to be typical of older dogs or โ€œpassingโ€ symptoms of a minor condition. Have your veterinarian check your petโ€™s teeth and gums regularly to truly rule out periodontal disease as a cause of these symptoms.

5. Be Aware of Risks for Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney and Liver Problems

Research shows that dental disease can impact the brain, heart, liver, kidney, lungs, skin, and joints. It also seems to have an impact on controlling diabetes. One reason is because periodontal disease can cause chronic inflammation and stress, both of which cause insulin resistance, a factor leading to diabetes and other health problems. If you suspect that the cause is liver related, ask your vet about Denamarin for dogs.

Dog Abscess Tooth Causes: Infection and Periodontal Disease

Tooth pain is never easy. Not for humans. Not for pets. Since dogs canโ€™t tell you right away that their mouth hurts, a minor problem could turn into something severe. Thatโ€™s why itโ€™s very important to pay attention to signs that your dog has oral pain. This way, you can catch problems such as an abscessed tooth early and get your dog the right treatment before dental problems impact their health and quality of life.

Signs Your Dog Has an Abscessed tooth

An abscess is a collection of pus that builds up near the site of an infection. If you look inside your dogโ€™s mouth when your pet has a tooth abscess youโ€™ll see swelling and redness around the gums alongside the affected tooth. The more pus that accumulates the more swollen and tender the area around this tooth can become. Of course, you may not be in the habit of regularly looking inside your dogโ€™s mouth for an abscess, which means you need to be aware of other symptoms of an infection.

A dog with a tooth abscess may show the following signs:

  • Only chewing on one side or avoiding chewing unless necessary to eat (not playing with tug or chew toys, etc.)
  • Dropping food while chewing (because the pain makes your dog stop biting suddenly)
  • Pulling away when you touch the snout or head
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • Scratching the side of the face with the affected tooth
  • Swelling around the eye, which can look like an eye infection
  • Inflammation around the affected tooth that is hot to the touch

What Causes a Dogโ€™s Abscess Tooth

Tooth root abscesses most commonly affect the upper carnassial tooth, the largest tooth in a dog's mouth. As dogs age, they are at risk for fracturing this tooth, often from trauma such as biting on something extremely firm (bones, stones, cage bars, fences, too-hard treats) or being struck in the mouth. When a piece of the upper carnassial tooth -- or any other tooth -- breaks away, itโ€™s easy for bacteria to get into the root and other sensitive areas of the tooth. This can lead to an infection, which causes white blood cells rush to the area to fight the infection and expel dead tissue. The accumulation of white blood cells creates a pocket of pus, which is called an abscess.

Other types of tooth abscesses, including those that form under the gum line, can be caused by periodontal disease.

Treatment of Tooth Abscesses

Left untreated, an abscess could lead to a serious eye infection, widespread tooth loss, and health problems that can accompany periodontal disease such as bone loss and damage to major organs.

As soon as possible, your dog should begin antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory. These medications will alleviate some of the swelling and soreness, but the tooth will either need a root canal or will need to be removed to fix the underlying issues.

If the abscess is affecting the upper carnassial tooth, your dog will almost certainly need to have the tooth extracted since that large tooth has three roots and root canal is very complicated.

You will need to consider cost and your dogโ€™s overall health before choosing between an extraction and root canal. Keep in mind that, usually, dogs can manage perfectly fine without a specific tooth โ€“ even the large upper carnassial tooth (which is more important to canines living in the wild than for dogs with a domestic diet).


As dogs age, you may want to take steps to lower the risk of tooth breakage by restricting your petโ€™s diet to softer treats and offering play things that are easy on older jaws.

Proper brushing and a routine of good oral care can also help avoid canine periodontal disease, which will protect your dog from abscesses and other dental problems.

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.

Was this article helpful?
Periodontal Disease Bad Breath (Halitosis)

You May Also Like