Did you know that by 2 years of age, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs suffer from varying dental health issues? Pet owners often overlook dental health, so periodontal disease is often only caught once the condition has advanced into the later stages. Consistent oral care and regular veterinary dental visits are pets’ most effective preventive and early detection measures. Our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team has put together our best tips to help you understand, recognize, and take action regarding your pet’s dental health.
What is periodontal disease in pets?
If your pet has not had a professional dental cleaning and you have not initiated their at-home dental care routine, their oral health will deteriorate. Periodontal disease will develop, causing conditions that affect your pet’s dental health, including their teeth, gums, mouth, and bones.
What is the culprit in periodontal disease in pets?
If left unchecked, plaque causes periodontal disease. Plaque buildup on teeth and under the gums causes tooth decay and infected gums. Untreated plaque develops into tartar and creates bacteria that can lead to heart, liver, and kidney problems.
Why is periodontal disease so common in pets?
Although certain pet breeds are genetically predisposed to dental health issues, the main issue is simply poor dental hygiene. Just like people, pets can also fall victim to neglected oral care.
What are periodontal disease signs in pets?
Some pet breeds are genetically predisposed to developing periodontal disease. However, the severity of a pet’s dental disease depends on many factors. To prevent your pet’s dental disease from progressing, keep an eye out for these signs:
- Foul breath — Your pet’s most obvious periodontal disease sign is foul breath. While many pet owners are quick to dismiss bad breath as normal, the condition is likely more severe if your pet’s breath makes you gag when they come near.
- Gums — Gingivitis is common in pets and is a significant sign something is wrong. Redness, irritation, and bleeding indicate that gingivitis is starting to develop in your pet’s mouth. However, a severe periodontal disease sign is a receding gumline, which exposes the teeth’s roots, leaving your pet prone to tooth root infections.
- Tooth discoloration — Enemy number one, plaque creates a thin yellow film on teeth. When left untreated, plaque hardens and gets darker, transforming into tartar.
- Tooth damage — The more plaque and tartar build up, the more vulnerable your pet’s teeth become to bacteria and infection. This can decrease bone density, which can cause teeth to break or fracture. Tartar buildup can also weaken ligaments in the jaw and mouth, loosening teeth, which may fall out.
- Facial changes — Issues inside the mouth can manifest on your pet’s face if they become abscessed. If one or both of your pet’s cheeks swell or cave in, especially under their eye, their dental health is likely poor.
- Behavior changes — If your pet’s mouth is extremely painful, they may exhibit a behavior change such as ignoring a favorite chew toy, rejecting a favorite chewy treat, or struggling to chew and retain food. These signs indicate that your pet is uncomfortable and needs veterinary attention.
Missing teeth, bleeding gums, or swollen cheeks don’t always cause pain or discomfort, so your pet can go about their day without indicating that something they feel unwell. Pets’ stoic nature is why conducting regular at-home dental checks and scheduling regular veterinary visits is essential to catching a potential issue before your pet suffers needlessly.
How is periodontal disease treated in pets?
Dental disease is progressive, and after examining your pet’s mouth, our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team will determine the stage of your furry pal’s periodontal disease. No matter the stage, periodontal disease treatment focuses on eliminating damage and easing your pet’s discomfort. However, the less severe the stage, the less severe the treatment. Depending on the stage of your pet’s periodontal disease, we will recommend the following treatment options:
- Stage 1 — This includes the early stages of gingivitis (i.e., gum redness and spotty bleeding from the gums) and mild tartar buildup. If our team has detected the disease at this stage, we can easily prevent your pet’s periodontal disease from progressing. Our team will develop a custom dental care plan for at-home maintenance and monitoring.
- Stage 2 — If your pet’s periodontal disease has progressed to stage 2, their gumline may be receding and their teeth’s roots are likely beginning to deteriorate. A receding gumline indicates ligament damage, which causes teeth to loosen. However, loosening may only be evident on X-rays. To determine the most effective treatment for your pet, our veterinary team will recommend a professional dental cleaning and X-rays. To perform these services and assess your pet’s oral health status, we will have to give them anesthesia.
- Stage 3 — At this stage, your pet likely has significant tooth erosion, experiencing up to 50% tooth detachment, which causes pain and discomfort. In most cases, tooth removal surgery is necessary to help prevent further damage and to improve your pet’s quality of life. Our veterinary care team can also offer specialized surgery and recommend you follow a strict at-home care regime to help your pet keep as many teeth as possible.
- Stage 4 — If diagnosed with stage 4 periodontal disease, your pet has a more than 50% bone density loss that is visible during a physical exam and doesn’t require X-ray diagnosis. At this stage, our team’s only option is tooth extraction to remove all the diseased teeth, providing the only hope of preventing further damage.
How is periodontal disease prevented in pets
While many factors outside your control can cause your pet to develop dental disease, integrating dental hygiene into your pet’s overall care plan is the best way to keep them healthy. Follow these dental care tips:
- Incorporate dental chews into your pet’s treat rotation to prevent plaque buildup.
- Implement water additives into their water bowl to combat bad breath.
- Brush your pet’s teeth daily using a small toothbrush and pet-friendly toothpaste.
- Schedule regular professional dental cleanings. The frequency of your pet’s dental cleanings will depend on their breed and current health status, but professional dental cleanings are the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease from developing.
Our Animal Medical Hospital of Naples team is ready to support your pet’s dental care journey. Whether your pet needs advanced dental intervention, a routine professional dental cleaning, or a proactive dental care plan, give us a call.