The most common health condition we see in Williamsburg dogs and cats is periodontal disease. In fact, by the age of three, the majority of dogs and cats show signs of the disease.
Unfortunately, periodontal disease has a wide range of negative consequences on your pet’s health and well-being; from discomfort and pain, to tooth loss, and even organ damage. But the good news is it’s entirely preventable! In this article, you’ll learn the basics about periodontal disease, how to spot it, and easy steps you can take to prevent it.
As your pet consumes food, small particles from their meal get stuck to their teeth, forming plaque. If this plaque is not quickly brushed away, minerals in your pet’s saliva harden the plaque, turning it into tartar. This tartar will inevitably make its way under your pet’s gum line, where it creates a fertile environment for bacteria to replicate. The bacteria secretes toxins, which erode supporting structures of your pet’s teeth, and can even make its way to the bloodstream, where it can be spread to your pet’s vital organs.
Recognizing the Symptoms
Periodontal disease is notoriously hard to spot for the untrained eye – that’s a large part of why so many pets are suffering without their owner’s knowledge. The most easily recognizable symptom is halitosis (bad breath). Unfortunately, many pet owners feel this is normal, but it’s actually a hallmark of the disease, or another underlying issue. You might also find your pet chewing asymmetrically (likely because it is less painful to chew with one side of the mouth), avoiding harder food or treats, pawing at their face, or perhaps a little bit of blood in their food or water bowls.
What are the consequences?
Once the tartar succeeds in spreading below the gumline, a dangerous cycle begins. Toxins from the bacteria begin to erode supporting tissue around your pet’s teeth. Sensing a foreign invader, your pet’s immune system will send white blood cells to fight the intruder. Unfortunately, this only further damages your pet’s oral tissue, as chemicals released from the white blood cells are harmful to your pet. Toxins make their way into your pet’s bloodstream, where they spread to your pet’s vital organs, and is why pets with periodontal disease have higher incidences of heart, kidney and liver disease. This shortens a pet’s expected lifespan.
The most common consequences of untreated periodontal disease are oral pain (that pets can’t tell us about!), gum damage, and tooth loss. It can also cause jaw fractures, death of bone tissue, and fistulas – the development of a hole between your pet’s nasal passage and oral cavity. These are all serious issues that fundamentally impact your pet’s quality of life.
How Do I Prevent This from Happening to My Pet?
The good news is you can treat and prevent periodontal disease! Preventive care is critical. Your pet should have dental exams at least once a year. During the exam, we will look for evidence of periodontal disease. If your pet shows signs of periodontal disease, we can schedule a dental cleaning. During this procedure, we totally clean your pet’s teeth, including below the gum line (where periodontal disease enacts its harmful effects). The improvement in your pet’s health and pain levels should be significant and immediate. It is a powerful way of making sure your pet is pain free, and lives happy and healthy and by your side.
The second tactic that is important to use is good home-care. The best plan is to create a routine where you brush your pet’s teeth once a day. This prevents much of the plaque from turning into tartar, and starting this harmful process. Important – make sure to use toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs or cats, as human toothpaste can be toxic to your pet. If you’ve never brushed your pet’s teeth before, you will want to take progressive steps to get them more comfortable with the process.
Start by dipping your finger in a wet treat (one they enjoy). Allow your pet to sniff the treat, and then gently rub it on one of their teeth. Repeat this once a day for three days. Next, put the treat on a toothbrush (made for pets), and gently rub it on one of your pet’s teeth. After doing this once a day for three days, graduate to using the toothpaste made for pets. Position the brush at a 45 degree angle to your pet’s teeth and brush back and forth a couple times for each tooth – throughout their entire mouth. Your pet may not enjoy it, but they’ll be much healthier and happier for it.
By taking the time to educate yourself on important health topics, you are taking a powerful step in your pet’s health and happiness. Thanks for reading, and as always, please know we are only ever a phone call away if you need anything at all.