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Periodontal Disease in Pets

More than 85% of dogs and cats older than 4 years show signs of dental (periodontal) disease. Dogs and cats do not have to suffer the pain and discomfort of untreated broken or loose teeth or infected gums. With the help of thorough examinations, x-rays, dental care, and daily brushing, your pet can keep its teeth in its mouth where they should be.

Dental disease can be painful and cause a persistent discomfort in your pet’s mouth. When periodontal disease is not treated, bacteria within the gum line can spread and cause deep pockets in the gums and bone loss below the gums. Eventually, this progression can cause tooth loss and other internal medicine problems. In addition, periodontal disease has been shown to affect the kidney, liver, and heart. It also affects the way certain metabolic diseases such as diabetes are regulated.

The following are signs of periodontal or dental disease in your pet

  • Bad breath
  • Red swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Discolored teeth- usually brown, yellow, or pink
  • Fractured teeth
  • Abscess at the gums
  • Tartar
  • Facial swelling

Because the disease is below the gum line, starting to brush your pets teeth at this time will not improve dental health. A professional dental cleaning where the area both above and below the gums can be cleaned is strongly recommended. The cleaning and assessment will require general anesthesia. Prior to anesthesia, your pet will be assessed to make sure they are healthy and at a low risk for anesthesia. The evaluation may include blood work or urine analysis. Prior to the dental cleaning, a catheter will be placed in the vein so that medications and fluids can be administered. During anesthesia, your pet will be closely monitored to predict any problems that may occur.

At the time of cleaning, a thorough exam and charting, much like what your dentist performs will be done. Any questionable teeth will have x-rays taken of them to assess whether further treatment or surgery is necessary.

If a tooth or tissue around it is diseased, treatment will be recommended. Ideally, if possible, a tooth should be saved. Root canal therapy can be done on teeth if no other significant disease is present. This is especially ideal in teeth that are used for chewing (called strategic chewing teeth).

Following the cleaning, certain modifications in diet or chewing behavior may be needed. In addition, daily tooth brushing will be recommended (click here for more on brushing cat’s teeth). Most pets can become accustomed to tooth brushing with a little bit of work.