Keeping Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy and Smile Sparkling

February is Pet Dental Health Month and the perfect time to focus on your furry friend’s oral health. Pets are susceptible to periodontal disease, a progressive infection that affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and can lead to pain, tooth loss, and eventually damage to organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.

The good news is that periodontal disease is easily preventable. When you understand the disease and recognize the signs, you can implement proactive measures to help ensure your pet’s good health. At Harbor Pines Veterinary Center, we’re committed to helping pets maintain their sparkling smile through regular dental checkups and cleanings. 

Periodontal disease signs in pets

Periodontal disease can be tricky to identify in the early stages, but you should watch for the following  signs:

  • Bad breath A healthy pet’s breath should smell fresh or slightly meaty, and a foul odor could signal an infection.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums Healthy gums should be firm, pink, and a little shiny. If your pet’s gums are red, swollen, or bleeding at the gum line, inflammation and infection are likely present.
  • Loose or missing teeth Periodontal disease can damage the tissues that support the teeth, leading to loose teeth or tooth loss.
  • Difficulty eating Pets with oral pain can find eating difficult. If your pet is having trouble chewing or is losing interest in food, they could have painful dental issues.
  • Drooling Excessive drooling can signal pain or difficulty swallowing associated with periodontal disease.

If you recognize any of these signs in your pet, scheduling a prompt appointment with your veterinarian is vital. Periodontal disease treatment typically includes a professional dental cleaning while your pet is under anesthesia to remove plaque and tartar buildup. In some cases, antibiotics or other medications may also be necessary for the pain and infection.

Periodontal disease prevention in dogs and cats

Preventing rather than treating periodontal disease should always be the goal. Follow these simple tips:

  • Toothbrushing As in humans, routine toothbrushing remains the gold standard for maintaining our furry companions’ healthy mouth and bright smile. Using a pet-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, gently brush your pet’s teeth daily, or three times per week at a minimum, focusing on removing plaque and tartar buildup, particularly along the gum line.
  • Chewing Your pet’s natural chewing instincts can be another valuable tool in the fight against periodontal disease. Opt for dental chew toys with abrasive textures designed to scrape away plaque and tartar. 
  • Eating Consider incorporating rough-textured kibble into your pet’s feeding routine to help polish away plaque during mealtime. Additionally, look for dental treats specifically formulated with ingredients that promote oral health and inhibit tartar buildup.
  • Drinking Encourage your pet to drink plenty of fresh water, which will help flush away food debris and bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease development.
  • CheckingRegular veterinary checkups and professional dental cleanings are invaluable for early detection and treatment before periodontal disease advances. 

Long-term consequences of periodontal disease in pets

While periodontal disease in its early stages may seem inconsequential, neglect can lead to a cascade of adverse health effects. Left unchecked, this chronic infection can extend far beyond the confines of the mouth and seriously threaten your pet’s overall health. Consequences include:

  • Chronic pain Inflammation of the gums and deterioration of supporting structures can cause serious discomfort for your pet. When simple tasks like eating and playing become too painful, quality of life is diminished.
  • Tooth loss As periodontal disease progresses, the bony structures anchoring teeth are eroded, leading to tooth loss, affecting your pet’s ability to chew and exposing sensitive tissues. Tooth loss also can lead to jawbone degradation, which can cause irreversible structural damage.
  • Infection spread — When the bacteria in infected gums enter the bloodstream and reach vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver, they trigger more inflammation and can lead to serious health complications. The risk of endocarditis, a life-threatening infection of the heart valves, significantly increases in pets with advanced periodontal disease.
  • Systemic consequences The chronic inflammation associated with periodontal disease can affect several organ systems. The immune system becomes overburdened by bacterial overgrowth and loses its ability to combat other infections. Chronic inflammation can also affect the kidneys and liver.
  • Decline in quality of life Painful teeth, difficulty eating, and the potential for systemic complications take a toll on the pet’s physical and emotional well-being. 

However, when you understand periodontal disease signs, take prevention measures, and prioritize regular dental care at home and in the veterinary clinic, you can help ensure your pet’s bright smile and good overall health. 

Harbor Pines Veterinary Center is committed to helping pets maintain lifelong good dental health and a happy smile. Don’t let Pet Dental Health Month go by without scheduling your pet’s wellness and dental exams.

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