We celebrate National Pet Dental Health month every February, but consistent pet dental care is important all year round. Why? Medical research clearly shows a link between a healthy mouth and a healthy body – both for humans and for pets. What’s more, dental disease in dogs & cats is extremely common.
Did You Know:
- Periodontal disease in pets is the most common condition found in adult dogs & cats, and it’s entirely preventable.
- By the time pet parents seek dental cleanings & pet dental care, it’s often too late to prevent disease and save your pet’s teeth.
(Source: American Veterinary Dental College)
PET DENTAL CARE OFTEN OMITTED BECAUSE PERIODONTAL DISEASE IN DOGS & CATS IS HARD TO SPOT
Part of the reason pet parents don’t get pet dental care for their dogs & cats is that periodontal disease can be hard to spot. Much of the activity from periodontal disease occurs under the gumline so it’s not obvious or easy to diagnose.
HOW DOES PERIODONTAL DISEASE IN PETS OCCUR?
Periodontal disease in pets takes hold when bacteria in your pet’s mouth forms plaque that sticks to your pet’s teeth. Once the plaque takes hold, then minerals in your pet’s saliva turn the plaque into tartar, which attaches to the teeth & hardens. Some of this will be obvious to the eye.
But the real damage occurs under your pet’s gum line, where you can’t see it. Bacteria that’s under the gum line emit toxins which can damage teeth & gum tissue if not treated, resulting in tooth loss.
After the toxins are generated by the bacteria under the gum line, your pet’s immune system will react. White blood cells and inflammatory chemical substances migrate to the area between the gum or bone and the tooth. The job of white blood cells is to seek out and destroy bacteria. But when white blood cells are overwhelmed, more chemicals are released that damage the tissue around your pet’s teeth. It’s a conundrum because your pet’s immune system actually can cause damage.
This under-gum-line activity also contributes to system-wide illness and organ damage.
Along with potential loss of gum tissue & teeth, bacteria & toxins from the mouth enter the blood stream and are carried throughout your pet’s body. Once this happens, your pet’s heart, liver & kidneys typically manifest microscopic changes.
In simple terms, your pet’s liver and kidneys, in particular, will be challenged to process the excess bacteria and toxins. This is where permanent organ damage can occur. And again, this condition is preventable with consistent pet dental care. Your pet’s heart also can be damaged if bacteria settles in the lining of the heart or heart valves, and then starts reproducing. This condition is called bacterial endocarditis.
Did You Know:
Medical research shows a link between periodontal disease and diabetes.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS THAT YOUR DOG OR CAT NEEDS PET DENTAL CARE?
While the under-gum-line activity is hard to see, pet parents can still watch for some obvious signs that pet dental care is needed. Here are 3 obvious signs of periodontal disease in pets:
- Bad breath
- Red, inflamed gums
- Receding gums (exposing the root of the tooth)
SUCCESSFUL PET DENTAL CARE INVOLVES DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT & HOME DENTAL CARE
There are three key phases of pet dental care that can help preserve your pet’s teeth and their overall health:
- Diagnosis – A visual exam & x-rays to assess what’s going on with your pet’s teeth & gums
- Treatment – A consistent regimen of pet dental cleanings & other potential treatments such as tooth extraction
- Home Dental Care – A consistent regimen of brushing your pet’s teeth at home to prevent periodontal disease or to slow the progression of periodontal disease.
WHAT’S THE OPTIMAL SCHEDULE FOR PET DENTAL CARE?
To prevent tooth decay, gum recession, and system-wide health problems related to periodontal disease, pet parents are encouraged to deploy the following pet dental health regimen:
- Get a dental exam for your pet once a year by your veterinarian (and also check your pet’s teeth & gums yourself once a month).
- Get your pet’s teeth cleaned under anesthesia once a year, and any related pet dental care that’s required.
- Buy pet toothpaste and learn how to brush your pet’s teeth. Daily brushing is best so it becomes a habit for both brusher and your pet.
- Do NOT allow “anesthesia-free” teeth cleanings for your pet. Because your pet is not sedated, technicians can’t do the deep cleaning under the gum line effectively. Visible portions of teeth may look better but the under-the-gum-line cleaning is what really helps prevent periodontal disease. For more information on why anesthesia-free teeth cleaning for pets should be avoided, read our expert article on The Dangers of Anesthesia-Free Pet Teeth Cleaning
Think your dog or cat might have periodontal disease? Contact Mile High Animal Hospital of Aurora, or call us at 303.693.6484 to schedule a pet dental care exam for your dog or cat.