pet dentalThe mind-body connection is likely a term you’ve already heard, but what about mouth-body connection? In both humans and pets, it’s nearly impossible to maintain good health without paying attention to oral hygiene.

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, the majority of dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease by age three. This puts them at risk for tooth loss, severe pain, and a variety of health issues. Owner education and action are essential to preventing and treating periodontal disease in pets.

What Causes Periodontal Disease in Pets?

The process of developing periodontal disease in pets is similar to how it develops in humans:

  • Bacteria in the mouth reproduce and form a sticky substance called plaque.
  • As the plaque ages, minerals in the saliva harden it into calculus, also known as tartar, which adheres to the teeth.
  • As the tartar moves below the gum line, it damages the supportive tissues surrounding each tooth, causing pain, bone loss, infection, and eventually loss of the tooth itself.
  • Bacteria from periodontal disease can also enter the bloodstream, where it circulates throughout the body and can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, and other organs.

Signs and Symptoms

Poor oral hygiene can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Give us a call if your pet is experiencing any of the following symptoms of periodontal disease:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding gums
  • Missing, loose, or broken teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Pawing at mouth or other signs of oral pain
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Loss of appetite

Untreated periodontal disease in pets can also cause:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Bone loss around the teeth
  • Jaw fractures
  • Tooth abscess
  • Oral cancers

Making Dental Care a Priority

The key to managing periodontal disease is prevention. You can make your pet’s dental health a priority in the following ways:

  • Good home care, in the form of daily toothbrushing and weekly inspection of your pet’s mouth, is a great place to start. If you have never brushed your pet’s teeth, start slowly and offer lots of praise and encouragement (choose a pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrush). Don’t give up! With time, your pet will adjust to the new routine.
  • Regular dental examinations are a part of your pet’s wellness plan. Your veterinarian inspects your pet’s mouth at each wellness exam and will make recommendations for professional follow-up care as needed.
  • Most pets require a dental cleaning and x-rays under general anesthesia from time to time, necessary to remove tartar buildup and check below the gum line.

You may also provide your pet with a dental treat, chew, or rinse to supplement their dental care routine. Check out this list of approved products, and let us know if you have any questions about periodontal disease in pets or any other pet topic. The veterinarians and staff at Poulsbo Animal Clinic look forward to working with you to care for your pet.