Periodontal disease in pets can be silent, but deadly. What harm can come from a little bad breath, you wonder? When the bacteria that causes that bad breath makes its way into the bloodstream and travels through the body, your pet could end up battling numerous health issues that aren’t restricted to her mouth.
As dental disease advances, painful and inflamed gums, bone loss, and decaying teeth can progress, causing severe pain, a possible broken jaw from weakened bone, and deadly infections. Bacteria inside the mouth can enter the bloodstream, travel through the body, and attach to the valves within the heart, leading to heart disease. Other vital organs can be affected, too, including the liver and kidneys.
How can you prevent this from happening and keep your beloved companion in tip-top shape for years to come? First, you should understand the process behind the spread of dental disease.
Why does dental disease occur in pets?
If you go even one day without giving your teeth a good scrubbing, you can run your tongue over your teeth and feel a sticky buildup. Now, multiply that feeling by 1,095, which is the number of days a three-year-old pets has lived, likely having never had her teeth brushed. That makes it easier to understand how dental disease occurs in almost all pets by the age of three.
Almost immediately after eating, bacteria, along with food and saliva, begin forming that sticky film over the teeth. This plaque accumulates over time, eventually hardening into tartar, which is a tough substance that cannot be removed with brushing. By stimulating white blood cells to fight off this foreign material attached to the teeth, bacteria, plaque, and tartar can all wreak havoc on your pet’s immune system and cause gum inflammation, tissue damage, bone loss, and eventual tooth loss.
Thanks (or not) to genetics and anatomy, some breeds are more susceptible to an advanced stage of periodontal disease. Those breeds include:
- Yorkshire terriers
- Cavalier King Charles spaniels
- Shih tzus
- Lhasa apsos
- English bulldogs
- Boston terriers
- Chinese cresteds
- British and Oriental shorthairs
But, even for breeds that are more susceptible to dental disease, the worst can be avoided by understanding the early warning signs and acting to keep your pet’s oral health in good shape.
What are the signs of dental disease in pets?
Prevention is the best medicine, but if you’ve adopted a pet later in her life, she may already be suffering from the effects of poor oral hygiene. To slow the progression of dental disease, preserve your pet’s oral health, and keep her comfortable and free from dental pain, call us immediately if you notice:
- Red or bleeding gums
- Pawing at the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty picking up food
- Loose teeth
- Blood in the water bowl or on chew toys
- Bad breath (contrary to popular belief, “doggy breath” is not normal)
- Excessive salivation
- Masses noted in the mouth
- Painful lumps felt under the eyes (tooth root abscesses)
- Chewing/dropping food on one side of the mouth
- Sneezing or nasal discharge (severe disease can lead to oronasal fistulas—tracts connecting the mouth and nose)
Unfortunately, once the majority of these signs are noticed, your pet’s dental disease has progressed to a stage that can cause issues in other parts of her body, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Stay on top of your furry friend’s oral health. Like you, your pet’s teeth should be brushed twice daily. Getting up close and personal with your pet’s mouth every day will help you notice any changes or problems early.
Is your pet showing signs of dental disease? Call us to schedule an appointment for your furry friend.