Dental Disease in Cats & DogsDachshundToothbrush.jpg

Most pets over three years of age have periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease is a progressive inflammation of the supporting structures around the teeth.  Signs of periodontal disease include:
• bad breath

• redness or bleeding along the gum line (gingivitis)

• difficulty chewing

• drooling

• loose or missing teeth

Treatment of periodontal disease may include antibiotics and other dental procedures, including tooth extraction.  Regular, at-home dental care, with periodic veterinary dental cleans, is the best way to prevent periodontal disease and keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Most dogs and cats over three years old have evidence of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a progressive inflammation of the supporting structures surrounding the teeth and is the main cause of early tooth loss.  Toy and brachycephalic ("flat-faced") breeds are at higher risk for periodontal disease because of tooth crowding in the mouth.

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease starts when bacteria  form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Once under the gums, bacteria destroy the supporting tissue which holds the tooth in place, leading eventually to tooth loss. Inflammation of the bone and tooth support structures is referred to as periodontitis. The combination of gingivitis and periodontitis is known as periodontal disease. Bacteria associated with dental disease may also travel in the bloodstream to the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Periodontitis.JPG What Are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?

• Bad breath
• Redness or bleeding along the gum line (gingivitis)
• Drooling
• Difficulty chewing
• Pawing or rubbing at the mouth
• Loose, discoloured or missing teeth
• Facial swelling, especially under the eyes
• Nasal discharge
• Gum recession

It's a common misconception that if our pets are eating normally then everything must be fine.  However even pets with sore gums, an infected mouth or broken teeth will continue to eat well, many of these signs will not be evident until you "lift the lip" and look in your pet's mouth.  If you suspect your pet is exhibiting some of the signs listed or if they simply won't let you check, arrange for a free dental health check with one of our highly trained nurses.

How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?

Dental-x-ray.jpgWe can easily identify signs of gingivitis and tartar buildup by examining your pet’s mouth. However, since most periodontal disease occurs beneath the gum line, the only way to fully assess the mouth is to perform an examination while your pet is anaesthetised.  We use a dental probe to measure loss of attachment around each tooth and we may take dental radiographs (x-rays) to assess for bone loss, abscesses, and other problems.

How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?

dental-8.jpgTreatment depends on the severity of the disease. If your pet has mild dental disease, consisting of gingivitis without any bone loss, a thorough dental clean using an ultrasonic scaler above and below the gum line, followed by dental polishing (just like your dentist does for you!) and sometimes antibiotics, will help reverse the problem.

If there has been a loss of the supporting structures around the teeth, however, this cannot be reversed. We may need to apply antibiotics beneath the gums and perform dental procedures, which may include tooth extraction.

How Can I Prevent My Pet from Getting Periodontal Disease?

An important way to prevent dental disease is regular home dental care. Daily brushing can help remove plaque before it turns into tartar. You can use a child’s toothbrush or purchase a finger brush from us. Human toothpastes should be avoided because they contain substances that pets shouldn’t swallow. Pet toothpaste is available in flavors such as chicken, cheese and malt.  Whilst it may at first seem daunting, most cats and dogs can be trained to allow regular tooth brushing.Maxiguard-(4).jpg

If your pet won’t permit brushing, there are mouth rinse solutions that target plaque bacteria and help promote healthier teeth and gums.                                                                                             

There are several dental diets and treats that can also help keep plaque and tartar to a minimum. These diets tend to have larger kibbles to provide abrasive action against the tooth surface when chewed, or they may include ingredients to inhibit tartar formation. Ask us which dental diets or treats are best for your pet.

It is important nowadays with so many different diets and chews claiming VOHC_Accepted_Seal-(2).jpgto aid oral health, that you ensure your pet's products carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval.  This independent body of veterinarians exists to recognise products that meet pre-set standards of plaque and calculus (tartar) retardation in dogs and cats.  At Port Phillip Animal Hospital we stock a full range of products approved by the VOHC.

Ask us what dental hygiene methods are recommended for your pet, and don’t forget to keep scheduled appointments for follow-up dental checks.

But what about bones???

Aha! We weren't going to get out of it that easily...

We make no blanket recommendations on the feeding of bones to pets, it's a divisive topic in the veterinary profession just as it is at the dog-park.  Whilst for some pets there are undoubted benefits from gnawing a bone, we need to accept that bones also carry the risks of oral trauma (including tooth fractures), gastrointestinal upsets and even serious obstructions from ingesting bony material.  They should certainly never be viewed as the complete solution to dental disease.

We recommend you speak to us when deciding whether bones should form part of your pet's dental health regime.