Dental Disease In Pets - It Is Not Just About Bad Breath

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in pets, and it affects not just senior pets, but all pets. Most dogs and cats by the age of three years will have early signs of periodontal disease. That is serious, so early detection and treatment are critical because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. “It’s not just about bad breath,” says Dr. Megan Bauer at Animal Care Hospital in Morris. IL. “Dental disease can affect the kidneys, the liver, and the heart, and to top it all off, pets are in pain; something that pet owners don’t necessarily notice.” Dogs rarely show signs they are in pain, so it appears that nothing is wrong, which is not the case at all. What pet owners do notice is bad breath, and that’s reason enough to schedule a dental exam with your vet. Other signs to watch for are swollen gums, a swollen jaw, and difficulty chewing.

“When these more serious signs show up, usually the disease has spread, and we can’t save the tooth, and the pet has been in pain for some time,” says Dr. Megan Bauer. “Dental disease can also cause broken jaw, especially in smaller breeds. The disease weakens their small jaw and any impact, like simply jumping off a couch can lead to a fracture.” Periodontal disease in dogs is categorized into four stages, with the earliest form of the disease when gingivitis appears. “This can happen to young pets just two or three years old,” says Dr. Megan Bauer. “It’s a misconception that it’s only a problem in older dogs and cats. By the time we see serious symptoms, these pets have been in pain for a long time.”

The Four Stages of Pet Dental Disease are:

1. The early stage is gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums due to tartar and bacteria.

2. The next stage is early periodontitis, which is when some bone loss occurs. During the middle stages of the disease, there is also a loss of soft tissue around the teeth as well, which gets more and more severe if untreated.

3. Moderate dental damage begins in stage 3 when 25-50% bone loss is visible on x-rays.

4. Stage four is characterized by chronic periodontal disease where the bone loss of 50% or more is visible on x-rays. This stage is where pets begin losing the support structure of their teeth.

An annual dental exam can detect the early signs of dental disease and keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Dental disease starts with a plaque on the teeth that hardens into tartar. The good news is a dental disease is reversible if caught early enough, but even in advanced conditions, a dental cleaning will help your pet feel much better. The best preventative treatment is brushing but if that is too difficult, call us to schedule an oral exam.