Many pet owners never even consider that their dog or cat could have any sort of dental problems. However, diseases affecting the mouth and teeth of pets are very common.
The major problem for pets is periodontal disease, which includes plaque or tartar that builds up on the teeth and in turn affects the gums and eventually the bone surrounding the teeth. This begins with rather subtle changes in the teeth and gums that often go unnoticed for a number of years. By this time irreparable damage has been done. The main signs of disease are the plaque or tartar itself, red and inflamed gums, bad breath, loose teeth, pain when chewing, and depression or listlessness. The progression of the disease is slow and often attributed to old age by the owner.
When a dog or cat with periodontal disease eats, it is possible within 15-20 minutes to find oral bacteria in the blood stream. Possible consequences of this are diseases of the heart, digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems. As you may suspect, painful infected teeth and gums may keep your pet from eating and drinking and cause weight loss.
Periodontal disease is usually treated under general anesthesia and includes cleaning and scaling of tartar and plaque, polishing teeth, and removal of any teeth whose roots are severely affected. Many owners report an immediate improvement in appetite, activity, and general well being, especially in the older pet.
Prevention of periodontal disease is dependent upon the animal’s owner. Brushing the teeth should be done at least every 48 hours to be really effective. You can use a small soft toothbrush such as those made for children or simply wrap a soft cloth around your index finger and use that. There are special dentifrice preparations available at your veterinarian’s office. Don’t rely on hard biscuits or hard dog food for proper cleaning.
Another common dental problem is tooth abscesses. The teeth affected are most commonly the large jaw teeth. This often goes unnoticed until the abscess has eroded through the bone and caused a swelling on the face underneath either eye. These abscesses are treated by removing the affected teeth.
Examination of you pet’s mouth is a routine part of annual checkup and vaccination visits to your veterinarian. If you suspect problems between checkups, simply call your veterinarian for his advice or to schedule an examination.
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.