Dental health is an important aspect of your pet’s overall health. Poor dental hygiene results in periodontal disease which can in turn negatively impact your pet’s other health systems. Periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for pets. Most pets show signs of periodontal disease by the age of three. Periodontal disease not only affects your pet’s mouth, it can negatively affect their organs including the kidney, liver and heart.

When your pet’s dental health is neglected, plaque is formed which results in tartar buildup and gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease. Chronic pain, gum erosion, missing teeth and bone loss will occur if periodontal disease is left untreated.

Though periodontal disease is unfortunately quite common in pets, it is preventable. Bacteria causes periodontal disease. Bacteria, food, saliva, and other particles are the ingredients that make up plaque. Plaque is viewed as a foreign intruder by your pet’s immune system. As a result, white blood cells are unleashed to fight against the plaque. The bacteria found in plaque signal the white blood cells to release enzymes. In turn, these enzymes cause gum tissue to break down resulting in inflamed gums, destroyed tissue, and bone loss. This pattern leads to tooth loss.

Dogs have more alkaline in their mouths than humans. Alkaline promotes the formation of plaque. Because most pets do not receive daily teeth brushing and have more alkaline, periodontal disease is five times more likely to occur in dogs than in people.

The first symptoms of periodontal disease are hard to detect because initially there are no symptoms. Pet owners do not see signs of periodontal disease in their pets until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Unfortunately, once periodontal disease has reached an advanced stage, pets are suffering from chronic pain. Because animals have an instinctive trait to not show signs of weakness, outwardly your pet may not appear to be in distress from chronic pain.

Symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Difficulty picking up food
  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood in water bowl, toys
  • Bad breath
  • Making noises when eating
  • Bumps in mouth
  • Blood tinged saliva
  • Avoiding having head touched
  • Chewing on one side of mouth
  • Sneezing, nasal discharge

If left untreated, periodontal disease can put your pet at higher risk of developing heart, kidney and liver disease. It can also destroy bone and result in a fracture to a weakened jaw. Dental X-rays are the only way to determine the health of your pet’s teeth and gums. Feeding your pet quality food with ingredients that prevent plaque from hardening is important. Ask your veterinarian about the proper diet to support your pet’s dental health. Give your pet safe toys and healthy treats which will encourage daily chewing and promote healthy teeth. Avoid hard treats that can result in broken teeth or a jaw fracture.

More than 80% of dogs suffer from periodontal disease by the age of three according to studies. As an advocate for your pet’s health, it is vitally important not to overlook the importance of maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings for your pet. Doing so will ensure your pet’s teeth are healthy, prevent unnecessary pain and discomfort, and give them the invaluable gift of good dental health.