periodontal diseaseThe American Veterinary Dental College estimates that periodontal disease is the most common condition seen in adult dogs and cats today. Studies report that by the time a dog or cat is 4 years of age, 85% of them have some form of dental disease. That’s a scary statistic! Fortunately, this common condition is completely preventable.

What is periodontal disease in pets, and more importantly, how can you and The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital prevent this problem from affecting your pet? Below, we’ll lift the lip on periodontal disease in pets, and give you our recommendations for care.

What Is Periodontal Disease in Pets?

Periodontal disease is the progressive inflammation of the supporting structures that surround the teeth. The problem begins when bacteria in the mouth form plaque that sticks to the teeth, and then minerals in the saliva cause the plaque to form tartar.

Then the real problems start. Bacteria travels around and under the gum line and causes gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. Eventually this inflammation leads to a painful mouth and infected pockets. The structures around the teeth, including the root and bone beneath, become weakened and damaged. This ultimately leads to fractured teeth and tooth loss.

Signs of Periodontal Disease

Because the early signs of periodontal disease in pets is so subtle, they are easily missed by most pet owners. Even pets with more advanced disease can show almost no signs. That’s why it’s so important to have a veterinarian evaluate your pet’s oral health at least once per year by performing a dental exam.

During this exam, we can show you what your pet’s mouth actually looks like inside, and point out any problems we’re concerned about. Here are the most common things you might notice at home:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Pawing at mouth
  • Tilting head when eating
  • Difficulty chewing, which may show as messy eating
  • Drooling
  • Loose or broken teeth

You can see from this list that even pets with advanced periodontal disease rarely completely stop eating, which means your pet may suffer needlessly if the signs are ignored.

Prevention and Treatment of Periodontal Disease

So, what can you do to prevent this from happening to your pet? We have some great answers!

Start with a dental exam at your pet’s next preventative care exam. As we discussed, your veterinarian will evaluate your pet’s oral health, grading their teeth and gums for the degree of dental disease seen. Since only a small portion of your pet’s mouth can be seen during this exam, a professional dental cleaning may be recommended. Treatment depends on the level of disease present.

Anesthesia is important for this procedure, since we need to effectively examine each tooth, probe under the gums for any problems, and take x-rays to see the internal tooth structures and below the gum line. None of these important tasks would be possible without anesthesia.

After your pet’s mouth is evaluated, we will thoroughly clean both above and below the gum line. Any extractions will be performed, with your permission, if there are any diseased teeth that are beyond repair. Lastly, your pet’s teeth will be polished to help prevent further plaque buildup.

Your pet’s preventive dental care can then continue at home!

Prevention 101: At-Home Pet Dental Care

To prevent periodontal disease in pets from reoccurring, home care will be recommended. An effective at-home dental care program will be tailored to your pet’s individual needs, and may include any or all of the following:

  • Daily tooth brushing (we can help instruct you on the right techniques!)
  • Dental chews
  • Dental diet
  • Water additives

Together, we can help to promote a healthy pet mouth worth smiling about. In honor of Pet Dental Month in February, we are offering 20% off dental cleanings for the month. Don’t hesitate to give us a call, or schedule an appointment to stop periodontal disease in its tracks!