Treating Your Cat's or Dog's Periodontal Disease

Treating Your Cat's or Dog's Periodontal Disease
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There are options to help treat your pets' periodontal disease before it leads to life threatening health problems. Learn what these options are here.

The best defense against gum disease is prevention. Sometimes, though, even the best efforts to avoid bacteria buildup in pets don’t work. In those instances, you want to treat infections and plaque buildup as soon as possible to avoid further health complications, which can be life-threatening.

Good Oral Hygiene

Brushing is the cornerstone of good daily oral care. Daily chewing activities can also be effective in maintaining oral health. Oral hygiene kits for cats and dogs can be used to effectively clean bacteria off of teeth using enzymatic toothpaste, a finger cap to clean the tooth surface, and a soft-bristled toothbrush to get under the gum line. Since cavities are not a concern for dogs and cats, you don’t need to brush for a long stretch of time. A few seconds of brushing in circular motions along the outside of the teeth should be effective for removing bacteria. This quick daily action can stave off the accumulation of plaque and tartar, precursors of periodontal disease.

Your pet may be calmer still if you associate tooth brushing with something that you do just before a walk or playtime. For cats, you can try to associate teeth brushing with lap time.


Feeding your pet dry food can promote better oral health because cats and dogs need to chew the food more, which produces more saliva, and saliva naturally works to rid your mouth of bacteria. Chew treats such as bully sticks, biscuit-type treats, and dental sticks can be beneficial as well. Look for large treats that ensure your pet really needs to do a lot of saliva-producing chewing.

Professional Cleaning

Even if you do adhere to a strict brushing, chewing, and check-up regimen, your pet could end up with plaque buildup and oral infections. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend that your pet undergo a professional dental cleaning to treat the problem. This is usually a one-day outpatient procedure that requires your dog or cat to be placed under general anesthesia.

Extractions and Medication

Pets suffering from severe periodontal disease may need to have teeth extracted and will require more advanced treatments performed under general anesthesia. Antibiotics such as Clindamycin, Clavamox for dogs, or Metronidazole for dogs and cats may be administered to clear up any infections. Your pet may also need to take pain medication to manage discomfort following tooth removals or other procedures. Treatments and subsequent follow-ups with your veterinarian to prevent further gum disease can literally save your pet’s life.

Treatment can also improve a pet’s mood and return dogs and cats to their old, playful selves, which can be just as important as restoring their physical health.

How Do You Treat Periodontal Disease in Cats?

Your vet will usually recommend a combined approach that focuses on professional dental care and at-home hygiene measures. A dental examination is the first step that will be taken, typically under anesthesia. During this process, your vet may clean out any tartar and plaque that may have accumulated on or below the gum line. If any teeth have been affected by the disease, they may need to be removed to reduce pain and to stop the infection from spreading. On the medication front, your vet may recommend antibiotics to help keep the infection under control. They will also educate you on how to care for your cat’s oral hygiene at home. This will include using an appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste. Your cat may also be prescribed specific diets and treats, along with oral rinses, to keep plaque and tartar away. 

What Can I Feed My Cat With Periodontal Disease?

Initially, wet cat food is ideal since it is gentle on your cat’s teeth and gums. However, certain dry kibble and treats can actually be beneficial in treating periodontal disease. According to Dr. Tammy Hunter, DVM, a veterinary consultant at VCA Animal Hospitals, dental kibbles tend to be bigger and force your cat to consciously chew instead of swallowing them. As a result, plaque is scraped off the tooth by the kibble. Thus, you are looking for food that has the ability to rub on the gums while eating. Raw chicken necks work surprisingly well for this purpose, but if you are thinking of chicken, make sure you never feed them cooked bones. With supplements, options rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants will be helpful due to their ability to keep inflammation down. Remember, if you feel like something would be good for your cat, it’s always a good idea to run a quick check with your vet first anyway.

Can Cats Live with Gum Disease?

Periodontal is not fatal, but it is an extremely difficult condition for a cat to live through. It impacts the quality of their lives, causing pain and tooth loss, and might even lead to several health issues later on. As Dr. Fraser Hale, DVM, a veterinary dentist practicing in Guelph, notes, these include severe infections and damage to surrounding tissue. In cases of chronic inflammation, the symptoms can worsen to the extent that they contribute to heart, liver, and kidney disease. In worst-case scenarios, the infection can lead to systemic infection or sepsis., which can be life-threatening. Thus, ensure that you learn to identify the symptoms of gum diseases in cats so that you can get them the help they need before it is too late. It isn’t uncommon for vets to remove multiple or even all the teeth in cases where the infection is severe. The sooner you get your cat's help, the better a life it can lead. 

How Can I Treat My Dog's Periodontal Disease at Home?

With dogs, the story is quite similar. Treatment will focus on regular dental care in combination with vet-recommended diets and supplements to support dental health. You might notice that tartar tends to form more easily in dogs than in cats. It’s also worth keeping in mind that while cats tend to hide pain and any other symptoms, dogs are easier to read. However, some dogs will still suffer in silence, so pay attention to their behavior. Some dog owners may find that brushing their teeth becomes a tension-filled experience. If your dog is hyperreactive to brushing, be careful. If you rush things, they can snap and bite you. Start with getting them used to feeling your touch on the snout, then with raising their lips. Take it slow and try to associate the experience with fun rather than tension.

Is Turmeric OK for Dogs?

Turmeric contains curcumin, which, according to Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, an author and veterinarian certified in acupuncture, is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory benefits. Thus, you might often hear about it being used as a sort of natural medicine for a range of health issues. Since periodontal disease tends to involve inflammation of the gums, turmeric can be an excellent natural supplement for your dog. It is also recommended by many vets to help manage arthritis, allergies, and even digestive problems. That said, you will want to be a little careful about how much turmeric you give your dogs. Speak to your vet to learn the exact dosage, depending on the breed of your dog, its weight, and other factors. If you feed your pet too much turmeric, it can cause gastrointestinal upsets and also thin your dog’s blood. This can be a cause for concern if your dog happens to already be taking blood-thinning medicines or suffers from any type of bleeding disorder.

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.

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