Many pet parents think dental and gum problems in pets only occur as pets get older. However, we have seen dental problems start at very young ages in dogs and cats. In fact, medical studies have found that:
Over 80% of dogs and cats age three and above have some form of dental disease!
For this reason, veterinarians across the country designate the month of February as the National Pet Dental Health Month to raise awareness for the need of dental care for pets.
Gum Disease in Pets
Pets get plaque and tartar build-up just like humans do. Untreated, the tartar spreads below the gum line causing bacteria to grow and cause damage to the gums, teeth, and even the jaw bones. Without a proper exam and treatment from a veterinarian, issues can arise such as:
Gum disease (gingivitis) is not just a matter of teeth going bad and needing to be extracted. The above conditions can cause your pet to suffer from:
Pain. Dogs and cats are good at hiding pain. Because of this, you may not be aware of their suffering from dental disease. Many clients notice how much better their pet feels after the dental procedure is done, not prior to.
Weight Loss. Dental disease can affect your pet’s ability to eat and can therefore cause weight loss.
Damage to vital organs of the pet’s body. Bacteria from infections in the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and spread to internal organs such as the heart, kidney, and liver.
Fractured Teeth in Pets
Pets can also suffer pain and bacterial infections from fractured teeth. A pet can fracture its teeth by chewing hard bones or their crats and also from blunt force trauma. If a crack is deep, it can fill with bacteria, infecting the inside of the tooth (root canal). From there, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream and infect vital organs of your pet’s body.
We cannot heal fractures but we can mitigate the effects by extracting the tooth, or referring to a veterinary dentist for root canal therapy. The sooner you address it, the better.
5 Tips to Preventing Dental Problems in your Pets
1. Brush your pet’s teeth
We realize it’s easier said than done to brush your pet’s teeth. Check out this video for help.
2. Do not let your pet chew on cooked bones.
While it may seem like a nice treat to give a dog or cat a bone, cooked bones can do a lot of damage. They can cause fractures of teeth. Also, the bones can splinter and cause damage to their mouth, stomach, or intestines. Raw bones that have gone through a special pressurized cooked procedure are safe for pets to chew on. But even then, you need to supervise your pet while they have the bone. You can find raw bones in the freezer sections of many pet food stores.
3. Keep Your Pet from Chewing Hard Objects
Let’s face it. Pets like to chew on things. But hard objects such as bones, rocks, even synthetic bones, can break a pet’s teeth. Keep safe toys handy to give them when they want to chew. If they get a hold of something they shouldn’t chew, it is best to replace it with a safe toy. For dogs, safe toys could be tennis balls, rope, rubber toys such as Nylabone® and Kong®. There are also smaller balls you can find in the cat sections of pet food stores that are soft enough for your cat to chew. Note: beware of cat toys with any type of string, yarn, ribbons, or feathers. If swallowed, these can cause obstructions in your cat’s intestine. If you do have toys with string, let your cat play with them only under direct supervision and put them away when you are done playing with them.
4. Schedule Regular Checkups
When your pet comes in for a wellness examination, this includes checking the teeth for fractures or infected gums. It takes a trained veterinarian to do a proper examination. If your pet has not been in for a wellness exam in the last year, you can schedule with us now.
5. Schedule Dental Cleanings for Your Pet
Dental cleanings are necessary to remove plaque and tartar that has built up on your pet’s teeth. We recommend this on a case-by-case basis that can be different for every patient. Talk to your veterinarian regarding how often your pet needs their teeth professionally cleaned. You can contact us to schedule your pet’s next dental cleaning.
Ashley Tuma DVM
Pine Creek Animal Hospital