February is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month and it’s the perfect time to learn about the importance of your pet’s oral care. Believe it or not, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of oral disease (referred to as periodontal disease) by the age of 3 years. Unfortunately, many pet owners tend to overlook common warning signs such as the following:
- Bad breath
- Yellow or brown deposits on teeth
- Not wanting to be touched on the head/face
- Drooling or dropping food
Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the tissue surrounding the teeth. It is often quite painful and can lead to devastating effects on the quality of your pet’s life. Typically this condition is classified in four stages:
Stage 1- Gingivitis
Yes, dogs and cats get gingivitis too. In fact, despite obvious composition differences, your pet’s teeth function very similarly to your own. Oral bacteria leads to plaque, which in turn hardens into tartar. If not removed, tartar will begin to irritate your pet’s gum line. Tartar + visible plaque buildup = gingivitis.
Stage 2- Early Periodontitis
Unfortunately, tartar does not go away on its own. Instead, it continues to build, creating more irritation and damage. At stage 2 of periodontitis, your pet’s entire gum line is inflamed and swollen. The roots of their teeth may have already lost approximately 25% of their attachment to the bone.
Both you and your pets have a direct pathway to your internal organs via your mouth. Bacteria from oral disease can spread to the heart valves and kidneys, resulting in secondary, more serious infections.
Stage 3- Moderate Periodontitis
Gums are red and potentially bleeding. Odor, which can be present at any stage, is more pronounced, and tooth extractions will most likely be necessary.
Stage 4- Severe Periodontitis
At this point the infection has led to loose teeth, bone loss and/or potential abscess. Your pet’s mouth is in constant pain.
In the wild, animals are known to try and hide their pain as a method of survival. Cats and dogs have the same instinct. If you’ve ever experienced a toothache however, you can easily empathize with what your pet may be feeling if they suffer from stage 3 and above periodontal disease.
Though February is the official dental awareness month, keeping up year-long routine care at home is important, and very easy! It’s never too early to start a dental routine; with praise and treats, it can even become a bonding experience with your pet. You can acclimate your pet to the new routine by gently rubbing their teeth with a soft gauze pad wrapped around your finger and eventually work your way up to a pet-specialized toothbrush and toothpaste, both of which are available at the hospital and your local pet supply retailer. Focus along the gumline, as that is a critical area for dental disease to start, and spend about 30 seconds brushing their mouth at least a few times per week. There are also several dental diets and treats specifically designed to help keep both plaque and tartar to a minimum.
Concerned your pet may be exhibiting signs of periodontal disease? Give us a call. One of our knowledgeable staff members is always available to discuss your pet’s oral care. With proper education, prevention, and timely intervention, you can help your furry friend live their longest, best life. We’re here to help you do it!