One of the most commonly seen conditions in pets is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a disease that affects the tissues that surround the teeth. Cats and dogs don’t typically get cavities in the same way that we do. Though we occasionally do see cavities in our furry friends, disease of the gums, bone, and ligaments around the teeth are much more common. With February being National Pet Dental Health Month we decided to focus our Doctor’s corner blog on dental disease in cats and dogs.
Periodontal disease starts as tartar and plaque accumulate on our pets’ teeth. The oral bacteria then have a convenient hiding place to grow and reproduce. These bacteria cause local inflammation of the gums. This is known as gingivitis. It can be seen as a more intense red color to the gums where they meet the teeth. Periodontal disease comes next as the bacteria infiltrate the bones of the jaw and the periodontal ligaments that hold the teeth in place. This can result in oral pain, loose teeth, and dental abscesses. As the disease progresses, the infection can spread through the blood to other parts of the body, including vital organs such as the heart or kidneys.
As with most diseases, prevention is the best treatment. Once severe periodontal disease is present, the only treatment may be to remove the affected teeth!
Prevention involves several components. The first is oral care at home. Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth is the best way to prevent periodontal disease. Many pets will come to accept brushing if you start slow and provide positive reinforcement. It is important to always use pet toothpaste, as fluoride and other components in human products can make your pet ill.
A second preventative step is routine physical exams at the veterinarian’s office. This allows us to evaluate your pet’s oral health and determine if your pet will need a full cleaning.
A comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment performed under general anesthesia is the final component of oral care. Such a procedure allows your veterinarian to accomplish several important goals. First, all surfaces of your pets teeth can be thoroughly cleaned and inspected. Intra-oral radiographs (X-rays) can be obtained to evaluate the two-thirds of the tooth that are below the gum line and can’t be seen with the naked eye. Lastly, any diseased teeth can safely and comfortably be removed.
Routine ora l care can keep your pet healthy and pain free!