Periodontal disease is the most common medical condition in adult dogs and cats. In this article, you’re going to learn what it is, how it impacts your pet’s health, signs and symptoms, and steps that you can take right now to make sure that your dog or cat isn’t a victim of periodontal disease!
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is the inflammation (and reddening) of your pet’s gums, as well as the damage and loss of the bone and soft tissue that supports your dog or cat’s teeth. It is caused by the accumulation of dental plaque, which hardens and forms tartar (or “calculus”). It is unfortunately a very common condition – the majority of pets will have periodontal disease by age three!
How does it affect my pet’s health?
The short answer is that there are several ways it can affect your pet’s health – from mild discomfort to organ damage. It really depends on the severity and stage of the disease. This is because as the tartar accumulates below your pet’s gum line, the growth of unhealthy bacteria is promoted. This bacteria damages the oral structures that support your pet’s teeth. This damage causes oral pain for your pet, and can lead to permanent dental damage, such as tooth loss. Even more alarmingly, the accumulated bacteria can enter your pet’s bloodstream and cause permanent damage to your dog or cat’s heart, liver and kidneys. This can actually shorten your pet’s lifespan.
Signs and Symptoms
Often times people laugh about “dog breath.” However, bad breath can actually be a sign of periodontal disease. Halitosis (bad breath) is caused by build up of bacteria in your pet’s mouth. So that foul odor that you’re smelling might actually be harmful bacteria!
Another common (though more subtle) symptom of periodontal disease is the refusal of crunchy food or treats. Pets with this condition will often opt for softer foods due to mouth soreness. You may also find them playing with chew toys less, chewing food on the sides of their mouths, or pawing and rubbing their face.
The good news is that periodontal disease is actually very treatable! If you (or your veterinarian) suspects that your pet may have issues related to periodontal disease, the first step is to schedule a dental examination. During the examination, our veterinary professionals will thoroughly examine your pet for symptoms of periodontal disease, and may even use advanced equipment (such as dental radiographs) in order to see its spread in ways that a visual check can’t!
If periodontal disease is present, the next step is for your pet to have a professional veterinary dental cleaning. During this procedure, your pet is carefully anesthetized, and we clean your pet’s teeth to get rid of any accumulated plaque and tartar. Importantly, we will also thoroughly clean below your pet’s gum line, where periodontal disease typically lurks. After this painless dental procedure, your pet will be much happier and healthier!
As in all of animal medicine, the best investment is in regular preventative care for your dog or cat. Your dog or cat should have at least one dental exam every year. It is also important to develop a routine with your pet where you brush their teeth. Doing this prevents the accumulation of plaque, which can harden into tartar within just a few days. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most important factor in protecting your pet from periodontal disease between professional veterinary dental cleanings. It’s best to brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily – and make sure to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that are both made specifically for your dog or cat.
For more information on your pet’s oral hygiene and health care, please contact our veterinary staff at (310) 517-1832. And if you suspect your pet may be exhibiting symptoms of periodontal disease, please let us know right away so we can help!