A cat with dental disease opens its mouth wide.

Did you know that dental disease, or periodontal disease, is one of the most pervasive diseases diagnosed in pets? In fact, by the time cats and dogs are over 3 years of age, two-thirds of them show some of the stages of dental disease. Untreated dental disease is linked to several other systemic diseases, such as kidney disease and heart disease.

Dental disease is more than just the bad breath commonly associated with it. It is complex in how it undermines the overall health of the body. This is why Bayshore Animal Hospital & Avian Practice is here to spotlight  the importance of pet dental care and examinations. Let’s take a closer look:

The Effects of Dental Disease in Pets

When pets go without oral hygiene, plaque and tartar accumulate on the teeth and under the gumline. This process allows bacteria to develop and create problems like tooth decay, missing or loose teeth, swelling and bleeding of the gums, and other conditions of the teeth, gums, and bones of the mouth.

Along with significant pain, this disease will later impact the vital organs of the body. This is because infection travels through the bloodstream from the mouth to the rest of the body. 

The Four Stages of Dental Disease

Your veterinarian will examine your pet to assess whether their oral health falls within these four stages:

Stage One: This is the earliest onset of periodontal disease, which includes gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums. This condition occurs when there’s the presence of plaque, tartar, and bacteria. This stage is often accompanied by S\swelling of the gums coupled with redness along the gumline.

Stage Two: In stage two, there will be a small amount of bone loss due to periodontal disease. Most notably, your pet will have bad breath (halitosis), discoloration of the tooth’s enamel, and swelling of the gums. At this stage,we recommend dental X-rays and professional cleaning.

Stage Three: This is when the problem becomes serious with up to 50 percent bone loss, which is only visible on an X-ray. Your pet’s gums will be swollen, painful, and will often bleed. Because of this, pockets or spaces between the gumline and tooth will develop, allowing for food and bacteria to create an infection. Many pets will need to have teeth pulled at this stage.

Stage Four: This is the most serious stage as it is very likely to cause damage to the internal organs. Not only is this stage extremely painful for your pet, they probably have already lost a significant number of teeth, which makes it hard for them to eat. 

Preventing Periodontal Disease

The ramifications for allowing dental disease to develop in your furry friend are serious. Many pet owners wonder how they can prevent this common disease from developing. Here are some important steps you can take to prevent this disease:

  1. Maintain your pet’s annual wellness examination, during which your vet will examine your pet’s teeth and gums, and sometimes order tooth cleaning and digital radiographs. These essential diagnostics and procedures will keep your pet’s teeth healthy. That is something to smile about!
  2. Brush your pet’s teeth at least a few times a week. Tooth brushing is the easiest way you can keep your pet’s health oral health top-notch. There are a number of videos online about learning to brush your cat or dog’s teeth. We are happy to instruct you on this when you and your furry friend are at their next wellness exam.
  3. Ask us about special diets and dental chews that can help. While dental chews do not dismiss the need for tooth brushing and dental care, they can complement it. Look for dental chews and treats with the VOHC seal of approval, an agency that monitors the efficacy of these treats. Certain diets can also help keep the teeth clean and free from buildup of plaque/tartar. We can recommend a few.

If you would like more information on the stages of dental disease, how to brush your pet’s teeth, or to schedule an appointment, please call us. We want your pet’s pearly whites to remain bright and healthy!