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Why Pet Dental Care Matters: The Hidden Dangers of Neglecting Your Pet’s Teeth

Feb 1, 2024Pet Health, Cats, Dogs

A cat yawning on a blanket, Why Pet Dental Care Matters: The Hidden Dangers of Neglecting Your Pet's Teeth

Did you know pet dental care is just as important as dental care is for humans? Neglecting your pet’s teeth can have hidden dangers you may not be aware of. From gum disease to tooth loss, dental issues in pets can cause your pet pain and affect their overall wellbeing.

Proper dental care for your furry friend is essential for their long-term health. This article will uncover why pet dental care matters and the risks of neglecting it.

The Importance of Pet Dental Care

One key reason pet dental health matters is that it can prevent tartar buildup and plaque. When bacteria in your pet’s mouth combine with food particles and saliva, they form a hard, yellowish substance called tartar that sticks to the teeth. If left untreated, tartar buildup can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and even tooth loss.

Neglecting your pet’s dental health can also affect their general health. Studies have shown that poor dental hygiene in pets can lead to systemic infections. Systemic infections affect the entire body rather than just the mouth. When pets have dental problems, bacteria from their mouths can enter the bloodstream and travel to organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys. This bacteria can contribute to conditions such as heart, liver, and kidney disease.

Canine Dental Health Concerns

Dogs can get cavities, but it is relatively uncommon compared to humans. Cavities in dogs are more often associated with specific factors such as diet, genetics, and oral hygiene practices. However, dogs can suffer from a variety of other dental issues. Some common dental problems in dogs include:

  • Gingivitis: Inflammation of the gums is a common early sign of dental issues caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth.
  • Periodontal Disease: This is an advanced stage of gingivitis where inflammation extends to the supporting structures of the teeth. It can lead to tooth loss and affect overall health. According to the NIH: Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases affecting dogs, with a reported prevalence of at least 80% in dogs over 3 years of age.
  • Bad Breath (Halitosis): Foul breath is often a sign of dental problems caused by bacteria in the mouth.
  • Plaque and Tartar Buildup: If not removed, plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) can harden into tartar, leading to various dental issues.
  • Broken or Fractured Teeth: Dogs may break or fracture their teeth, especially if they chew on hard objects.
  • Oral Tumors: While relatively rare, tumors can develop in the mouth, affecting dental health.

Feline Dental Health Concerns

Cats can also experience various dental problems when their oral hygiene is neglected. Studies report that up to 90% of cats older than four suffer from some form of dental disease.

Like dogs, cats are susceptible to gingivitis, periodontal disease, cracked teeth, and more rarely, tumors. But there are some other dental diseases that can occur in cats:

  • Juvenile Gingivitis: Juvenile gingivitis can occur in young cats as a severe inflammatory response to the eruption of adult teeth. It typically starts between 3 and 4 months of age and can be painful and affect the kitten’s eating ability. We’re not sure why it occurs in pets too young to have lots of tartar on their teeth. It is believed that genetics or their immune system could be too sensitive to bacteria on their teeth.
  • Stomatitis: Stomatitis is a severe and painful inflammation of the oral cavity, including the gums, tongue, and back of the throat. Stomatitis can significantly impact a cat’s ability to eat and groom itself.
  • Tooth Resorption: The cat’s body begins breaking down and absorbing the structures that form the tooth. This process often starts in the enamel along the gum line and continues toward the tooth’s center. Eventually, the tooth will be almost entirely gone. Tooth resorption is a painful condition that can affect multiple teeth.

How to Detect Dental Problems in Your Cat or Dog

Pets are experts at hiding their pain, which makes it essential for pet owners to be observant and recognize the signs of dental problems. Here are some common signs that indicate your pet may be experiencing dental issues:

  • Bad breath: Persistent bad breath, often described as “fishy” or “rotten,” can indicate dental problems in pets.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums: Inflamed or bleeding gums may indicate gum disease or other dental issues.
  • Difficulty eating or chewing: If your pet is having trouble eating or chewing, it may be due to tooth pain or discomfort caused by dental problems.
  • Pawing at the mouth: Pets experiencing dental pain may paw at their mouth to alleviate the discomfort.
  • Drooling excessively: Excessive drooling can be a sign of dental issues, especially if accompanied by other symptoms such as bad breath or difficulty eating.
  • Changes in behavior: Dental pain can cause changes in your pet’s behavior, including irritability, aggression, or reluctance when you touch around the mouth.

If you notice any of these signs in your pet, please contact us so we can examine its teeth. Early detection and treatment can prevent further complications and maintain your pet’s dental health.

Preventative Measures for Pet Dental Care

Preventing dental problems in your pet is critical to ensuring their long-term dental health. Here are some preventive measures you can take to maintain your pet’s dental wellbeing:

  1. Daily brushing of your pet’s teeth is essential to their dental care routine. Please click on the picture below and watch this video from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  1. Dental Chews: Dental chews can help remove plaque and tartar buildup.
  2. Chew Toys: Dental chew toys are designed to help clean your pet’s teeth. They often have textured surfaces that can help remove plaque and tartar.

Pine Creek Animal Hospital carries a wide range of dental products for your pet. Please visit our online pharmacy.

Professional Dental Care for Pets

In addition to regular at-home dental care, professional dental cleanings are essential for your pet’s dental health. Our dental services include teeth cleaning and polishing, tooth extractions and minor oral surgery. Our team of skilled veterinarians are on site to perform any variety of dental services to your pet.

FAQs About Professional Veterinarian Dental Cleanings:

    1. How often will my pet need a professional dental cleaning?
      Answer: While we typically perform dental cleanings on pets once a year, the frequency may vary depending on their needs. Your veterinarian will guide you on the appropriate schedule for your pet.
    2. Are dental x-rays required for my pet to receive professional dental cleaning?
      Answer: Our dental procedures include digital dental X-rays, allowing our doctors to see where most periodontal disease is present below the gumline.
    3. Why does my pet require general anesthesia for professional dental cleaning?
      Answer: Anesthesia helps make dental procedures less stressful and painful for your pet. It also allows for better cleaning and necessary X-rays as your pet remains still. While anesthesia has some risks, it’s safer than ever, and the benefits usually outweigh the risks. Most pets can go home on the same day.
    4. Who performs the dental cleaning on my pet?
      Answer: Veterinary dentistry includes the cleaning, adjustment, filing, extraction, or repair of your pets’ teeth and all other aspects of oral health care. A veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist should perform these procedures. Veterinary technicians are allowed to perform specific dental procedures under the supervision of a veterinarian.
    5. What happens during a pet dental cleaning?
      Answer: During dental cleanings, the veterinarian uses special tools to remove dental plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. They also evaluate the health of your pet’s teeth and gums, perform any necessary extractions or treatments, and provide you with recommendations for ongoing dental care.

Please click on the picture below to watch this informative video from the AVMA about veterinarian dental cleanings:

Conclusion: Prioritizing Your Pet’s Dental Care

Pet dental health matters more than you may realize. Neglecting your pet’s teeth can lead to hidden dangers such as chronic pain, systemic infections, and tooth loss. Fortunately, many of these diseases are largely preventable or treatable with appropriate preventive dental care and monitoring. Regular dental check-ups, tooth brushing, dental products, and professional dental cleanings are essential to maintaining your pet’s dental health.

Remember, your pet relies on you to care for their dental health. By investing in their dental care, you are investing in their quality of life. So, take the necessary steps to ensure your pet’s teeth and gums are healthy, and they will thank you with a lifetime of wagging tails and contented purrs. Contact us now if you have any questions or need to schedule your pet’s next appointment.

Your Caring Team
Pine Creek Animal Hospital