Dentl disease, also called periodontal disease, is one of the most common conditions affecting our pets. In fact, the American Veterinary Dental College estimates that by the time pets are 3 years of age, over 85% of them have some form of dental disease.
Most pet owners have a difficult time knowing when dental disease is a problem affecting their own pet. After all, who wants to look in a pet’s mouth, what with all those fangs? And, pets are very good at hiding signs of pain and discomfort, even from their closest people.
But dental disease in pets is painful for them, make no mistake. And if left untreated, it can cause pain, infection in the mouth, tooth loss, and even damage vital organs such as the liver, heart and kidneys.
Since we all love our pets and want to do the best we can to provide them with a long and happy life. By placing the spotlight on dental disease in pets, and what pet owners can do to prevent and treat this painful condition.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease begins when plaque and tartar build up on the teeth. The bacteria that causes these problems can then migrate under the gums, causing gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, which is the destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth – including the root and even the bone below.
Stages of Dental Disease in Pets
Pet dental disease is commonly broken down into 4 stages.
Stage 1 – this early stage is characterized by gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. There may be reddening and swelling of the gums. Tooth brushing may be uncomfortable. A professional cleaning and daily tooth brushing will likely be recommended.
Stage 2 – also known as early periodontitis, this stage occurs when there is a small amount (25% or less) bone loss seen on oral radiographs. You may notice bad breath, red and swollen gums, and visible tartar and plaque on your pet’s teeth. At this point, your pet needs a professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar on the teeth and under the gumline to reverse the progression of periodontal disease.
Stage 3 – serious dental problems begin to present at this stage. This stage is known as moderate periodontitis, when 25%- 50% bone loss is observed on oral radiographs. Gums will be swollen and painful, and bleed easily. There is loss of gum attachment to the tooth, forming areas known as periodontal pockets. During a professional cleaning, it may be found that your pet has diseased and infected teeth that cannot be saved, and need to be removed.
Stage 4 – extreme, chronic dental disease is seen at this 4th and final stage. Bone loss of 50% or more will be seen on oral radiographs. Your pet will be in extreme pain, and is at risk of losing multiple teeth and they are at risk of organ damage to their heart, liver and kidneys.
Preventing and Treating Dental Disease in Pets
An oral examination is an important part of your pet’s annual wellness exam. A thorough look into your pet’s mouth coupled with your account of their behavior at home will help our veterinarians detail an oral health plan for your individual pet.
A professional cleaning under general anesthesia is recommended for most pets on an annual basis. This allows us to assess the health of each tooth, clean thoroughly under the gumline, and polish any rough surfaces that might collect plaque and tartar in the future. We can also correct any problems related to periodontal disease.
A home care plan that includes daily tooth brushing is also in order! We can help teach you how to brush your pet’s teeth, and although it’s easier with younger animals, even older pets can learn to tolerate and even enjoy this daily attention. With your help, your pet can reap the benefits of good oral health and a happier and healthier life.