It’s a fact – pet dental is one of the most important health related topics pet owners need to address. The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of periodontal (gum) disease by age three. The report goes on to say that periodontal disease is the number one disease among dogs and cats! So if you are not part of the 10% that are already doing something for their pets’ oral health, now is the time. Some encouraging news is that there are new products and techniques that make it easier and more effective than ever to address your pets’ dental care.
What is the leading cause of oral disease?
Bacterial plaque in the oral cavity is the leading contributor to periodontal disease. The disease develops from bacteria and food particles that get lodged in the tooth and gums where it begins the formation of plaque. Plaque is a silky white film that when left untreated hardens into calculus or tartar.
As plaque and tartar buildup around the tooth it drives the bacteria down the gum-line isolating it from oxygen. Oxygen helps fight off bacteria, and as the plaque turns into tartar it creates a shield for the bacteria to begin attacking the surrounding tissue. The infection of the tissue can lead to gingivitis and periodontitis.
What is periodontal disease?
When plaque and tartar buildup in your pets’ mouth causing gingivitis and periodontitis, it can lead to periodontal disease. According to Dr. Jan Bellows, “Periodontal disease is inflammation of some or all of the tooth’s support structures.”
The danger with periodontal disease is that it is not only diminishing the quality of life for your pet, as it is very painful, but it can also lead to serious health problems.
What are the warning signs that my pet possibly has oral disease?
You know when Fido jumps into your lap to give you some sweet sloppy kisses but his terrible breath turns sweet into stinky? How about when your pretty kitty is snuggling up against you but all you can smell is tuna breath? Not only does bad breath put a barrier between you and Fido’s sloppy kisses, but bad breath is also one of the first signs of periodontal disease.
Halitosis is the medical term for the bad breath you are experiencing. It is a combination of bacteria, unhealthy tissues and decomposing food particles. This is the environment that hosts periodontal disease. Other warning signs to watch out for are redness in the gums around the tooth line, bleeding of the gums, sensitivity around the mouth, struggle to eat or keep food in their mouth and of course the development of plaque and tartar buildup.
Can anything happen to my pet if the disease is left untreated?
Yes. The mouth is the gateway to health for your pet. If oral disease is left untreated, it can lead to a host of problems, both “local and systemic diseases”, according to the Journal of American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). Bacteria from the infected oral environment can seep into the blood stream causing complications with the heart, liver, kidneys and other serious health problems.
Studies have shown that the seriousness of these issues can reduce the life expectancy of your pet by 1 to 3 years. Though periodontal disease is the number one disease among pets, the good news is that it is among the most treatable. Extending the life of your pet and improving their quality of life is not only possible, it can be made easy as well.
Are there any simple solutions for home care?
It is important to visit your local vet for a dental exam to determine if your pet has periodontal disease. Depending on your pets’ breed and size, visits to the vet could be as frequent as every 3 to 6 months or as lax as annually.
A home dental routine is extremely important. Just imagine if you only brushed your teeth twice a year when you visited your dentist. Plaque, the leading cause of periodontal disease, can begin to develop on pets’ teeth as quickly as 12 hours after a dental cleaning. Brushing your pets’ teeth can still be an effective method in a daily oral health routine. Thankfully there are also new products that make home care so much easier!
Bellows, Dr. J. (2000). All Pets Dental. Periodontal Disease. Retrived from http://www.dentalvet.com/vets/periodontics/periodontal_disease.htm
Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. (2011). Pets Need Dental Too, Inc. Retrieved fromhttp://www.petdental.com/pd2/index.jsp
American Animal Hospital Association. (2012). AAHA Dental Health Care Guidelines. Retrieved from http://www.healthypet.com/PetCare/PetCareArticle.aspx?title=AAHA_Dental_Care_Guidelines