Periodontal disease – what to know

blog image

Often times, pet parents aren’t aware of how common and serious periodontal disease is. The majority of dogs and cats show signs of periodontal disease by age three! It is a common condition, and is also typically painful. Many pet owners aren’t aware that their pets are in pain because there’s no great way for them to tell us!

Symptoms of periodontal disease are notoriously tricky for the untrained eye to spot. The unchecked progression of periodontal disease can have a range of effects on your pet’s level of comfort and overall health. We wrote this article so that you can be empowered and informed to keep your pet happy and healthy. In the next few minutes, you will learn the basics of periodontal disease, how it effects your pet, the symptoms to be on the lookout for, and a smart plan of action. By reading this article and following these steps, you are learning a relatively easy way to keep your pet pain-free, as well as adding years to your pet’s

The basics

Your pet’s mouth works very similarly to ours – when your dog or cat eats, plaque accumulates on its teeth. If this plaque is not soon brushed away, your pet’s saliva will begin to harden it into tartar (or “calculus”). This becomes a real problem when the tartar begins to spread beneath the gum line, which it will do if it is not soon removed. The health issues arise because as the tartar begins to accumulate below the gum line, it creates a fertile breeding ground for harmful bacteria, which begins secreting toxins. These toxins attack your pet’s surrounding tissue, and make their way into your pet’s bloodstream.

Inside your pet…

Your dog or cat’s mouth begins suffering damage as the toxins begin to erode their teeth’s supporting structures. This damage signals an immune response which is actually self-defeating; the white blood cells that rush to the rescue will only cause further damage to the tissue. This self-perpetuating chain of events can wreak havoc on your pet’s mouth. This is usually very painful for a pet.
Alarmingly, these toxins will begin to enter your pet’s bloodstream, where they make their way to the vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. This is why pets with periodontal disease have higher incidences of heart, kidney and liver disease. These are life-threatening situations that require extensive and advanced veterinary care. This is part of why a good preventative plan is so important, so that we never get to this point.

Symptoms to look for

We can’t diagnose periodontal disease without a look beneath your pet’s gum line, and that can’t be done with the naked eye alone. However, there are symptoms that are typically highly suggestive of periodontal disease. It is really helpful if you examine whether or not your pet is showing any of these, and continue to keep vigilant.

• Bad Breath – halitosis is typically joked about (“dog breath”), but it’s actually usually a strong indicator of periodontal disease.
• Avoiding harder food/toys – As your pet begins to lose some of its tooth’s structural support, it becomes more difficult and painful to chew harder items. You may notice they enjoy their favorite treats or toys less, or even avoid them altogether.
• Asymmetrical chewing – If your pet favors chewing on one side of its mouth, it is a strong indicator that chewing on the other side of its mouth is causing pain. This is usually because of damage inflicted by periodontal disease.
• Swollen, inflamed, or bleeding gums – This is perhaps the trickiest symptom to spot, but you may want to look for signs of blood on your pet’s toys, food, or in the water dish.
• Pawing at the face – many pets will instinctually paw at their face to try to reach the source of their discomfort. Persistent pawing can be a sign there is chronic pain.

Taking action

As you can see by now, oral health is incredibly important for your pet’s quality of life and longevity. Our plan of action needs to be two-fold – treating any existing periodontal disease, and practicing smart preventative health care. If you suspect your dog or cat may be suffering from periodontal disease, please contact us right away. We can help you plan your pet’s oral health care, and answer any questions you might have.
Dogs and cats should have dental assessments at least once a year. Once your pet is examined, we can advise you on the best course of action to take. These steps usually include at least one of the following:

Scale and Polish

A thorough teeth cleaning is a routine and effective procedure. During the cleaning, we remove the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Most importantly, we are able to clean beneath your pet’s gum line. Remember, this is where periodontal disease lurks! This will remove the bacteria’s ability to grow, multiply and spread.
This procedure is incredibly important because once damage occurs to tissue or bone, there really is no way to grow it back. That is why it is essential to receive routine dental cleanings for your dog or cat, to keep periodontal disease at bay. However, pets with a dental cleaning usually see a substantial and immediate benefit from the procedure in terms of pain and prognosis, even if periodontal disease is advanced. This will significantly improve quality of life, and can absolutely add years to their life.

Home care

You are an invaluable ally in your pet’s oral health. It is so very helpful for your pet if you routinely brush their teeth, as this removes most of the plaque before it can harden into tartar. The best practice is to brush their teeth once a day, but if that is not realistic, just create whatever routine is realistic for you both to follow.
Important note: Do NOT use regular toothpaste when brushing your pet’s teeth. Human toothpaste is often toxic to pets, and can cause serious problems. Make absolute sure to use toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs or cats. If you have questions about this, just contact us so that we can help you pick the right one.

Important note: Do NOT use regular toothpaste when brushing your pet’s teeth. Human toothpaste is often toxic to pets, and can cause serious problems. Make absolute sure to use toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs or cats. If you have questions about this, just contact us so that we can help you pick the right one.

If your pet has never had its teeth brushed before, you will need to slowly get him used to the activity. Begin by dipping your finger in their favorite liquidy or mushy treat. Allow them to sniff it, and then gently rub your finger on the outside of their teeth. Do this for a minute or two for a couple days. After that, put the same treat on their toothbrush. Allow them to sniff it, and then gently rub it on the outside of a couple teeth. After a couple of days of this (or when it seems they’re ready), you can begin to brush their teeth normally and with the dog or cat toothpaste. Brush at a 45-degree angle all the way down to the gum line. Go gently back and forth between each tooth two or three times. And make sure to give them plenty of praise during and after!

We care a lot about you and your pets. That’s why we are so passionate about educating you and empowering you about oral health, as it has such a large impact on your pet’s quality of life and longevity. Please know that if you have any questions or need anything at all, we are always here for you, whether you are a current client or a local pet owner!

-The Neighborhood Vet Team