5 Warning Signs Of Dental Disease in Pets
Our pets may not need to smile for the camera, but they still require dental care to keep them healthy and happy. Studies show that by the time they are 4 years of age, 85% of pets have some form of dental disease. And what starts as bad breath and a little tartar can quickly progress to more serious problems such as tooth loss, bacterial infection, and internal organ damage.
But many of us don’t regularly look inside our pet’s mouths. And so how to tell if our pet has a problem? We’ll look at the 5 warning signs of dental disease in pets and give you some tips on what to look for.
Dental Disease in Pets
First, what is dental disease? Periodontal disease is defined as the progressive inflammation of the supporting structures that surround the teeth. Here’s how it happens:
- Bacteria from the mouth form plaque on the teeth
- Within days, minerals in the saliva cause the plaque to harden into tartar
- The bacteria then work their way under the gums, causing inflammation and gingivitis
- Once under the gums, bacteria go to work to destroy the supporting tissue around the tooth
This process is painful and progressive. What’s more, bacteria associated with dental disease in pets doesn’t just stay in the mouth – it travels in the bloodstream to infect the internal organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart.
5 Signs of Dental Disease in Pets
There are quite a few warning signs for dental disease in pets. Here are the top 5 that most pet owners notice.
Bad breath – Contrary to popular belief, doggy breath is not normal – although it is common. Bad breath is the first sign that your pet has plaque and tartar that are beginning to affect her dental health.
Pawing at the mouth – Dental disease is a painful condition, and animals are great at hiding signs of pain. If your cat or dog is pawing at their mouth, this is often a sign that something is bothering them in their mouth – dental disease.
Redness or bleeding along the gum line – This one is an easy tell, but again, if you’re not looking in your pet’s mouth, you may not always see this right away. Look for drooling as well, often tinged with blood, as a sign your pet has a dental problem.
Difficulty eating – Although it takes a lot to actually stop a pet from eating, you may notice your pet having difficulty eating their food. This often manifests as messy eating (dropping food), chewing on only one side of the mouth, or taking longer to finish a meal.
Facial swelling – With progressive dental disease, facial swelling accompanied by loose or missing teeth may occur.
Veterinarians can observe signs of gingivitis and tartar buildup with an oral exam. However, because most periodontal disease occurs below the gum line, the only way to truly assess the degree of disease is to perform a dental exam under anesthesia. We can probe for deep pockets and take dental x-rays to see potential problems as well as abscesses and bone loss.
A dental cleaning is the most significant form of prevention, as it allows us to examine each individual tooth and prevent further deterioration.
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