Let’s talk about teeth for a minute, as February is National Dental Month in the veterinary community.
Periodontal (dental) disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in our pets; with 76% in dogs and 68% in cats; yet it is preventable. “According to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease by the age of three, often indicated by bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and mouth, and depression.”
Dental disease is similar to an iceberg; most of the damage is below the surface. Continue reading to learn more.
The first thing pet owners notice is a sour smell coming from their pets’ mouth. The first thing your vet notices is much more, including but not limited to tartar build up, gum recession, tooth loss, and mouth pain.
Let me explain. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth forms a sticky substance called plaque on the surface of the teeth. The plaque becomes dental calculus (tartar) as minerals from saliva harden. The tartar is firmly attached to the surface of your pets’ teeth, but this is not the main problem.
The problem occurs when the plaque and tartar start to spread under the gum line allowing access for bacteria to invade the surrounding tissue, bones, and blood. The body’s natural immune response is to release white blood cells to form a counteract on the bacteria. However, the chemicals released by the animals own immune system actually worsens the problem and further degrades the tissues and ligaments around the tooth. Worst yet, is when bacteria reaches the bloodstream; where they can begin to affect your animals internal organs (heart, liver, and kidneys).
Periodontal disease includes gingivitis (red, inflamed gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue surrounding the teeth). The appearance and severity can present in a wide range, which cannot be accurately assessed without general anesthesia in our pets. I know that the mention of anesthesia makes most owners queasy, but the potential for shorter life expectancy, pain, and that nuisance breath should help encourage a serious conversation with you veterinarians.
What can you do at home to help protect your pets’ teeth is easy.
Brush their teeth daily! That’s it, plain and simple.
Give them CET Chews. Animal Medical Center keeps them on the shelves. They are enzymatic dental chews that help reduce plaque and freshen breath.
Feeding a hard food, especially in cats, will help minimize tartar and dental calculus from forming as well, by mechanical abrasion of teeth.
Ask your vet today if your pet is in need of a dental cleaning. When periodontal disease is caught early you minimize the risk of tooth extractions (the costliest part of the procedure).