Periodontal Disease In Dogs & Cats: What You Need To Know

Periodontal disease can be deadly, but it's preventable. Learn how to prevent this disease of the teeth and gums to add years to your pet's life.

Aly Walansky

Updated May 22, 2023 • Published May 13, 2020

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Periodontal Disease In Dogs & Cats: What You Need To Know

Did you know that good oral hygiene in pets can help extend their lives? What starts out as plaque or other mouth and teeth issues can get serious very quickly for dogs and cats. One of those issues is periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the gingiva and the surrounding structures of the teeth. It occurs when bacteria multiply in the area where the teeth and gums meet. Over time, the bacteria form more and more plaque underneath the gums. The bacteria release toxins, which accelerate the process, and the tooth loses more and more of its anchoring ligament and then falls out.

Periodontal disease is very common and can begin in pets as early as 6 months of age. By the age of 3, most pets have some degree of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, it's incurable, so the best measures are always preventative.

Let's take a look at how periodontal disease affects your pet's health and how you can prevent the disease from developing in the first place.

How does periodontal disease affect your pet’s health?

Periodontal disease can cause immense pain in your pet and lead to a serious infection. This infection can have tragic results—if left untreated, the infection can spread to the heart, liver, and kidneys.

Once that periodontal infection from the mouth enters the blood, it will spread throughout the body. At this point, the liver and kidney will have trouble filtering out the toxins. The heart is at risk, too, especially if your pet has heart disease. These infections can cause permanent as well as fatal damage to your pet's organs.

If your pet is diabetic as well, they are at increased risk. The periodontal infection could cause issues with their diabetes and make it difficult to keep it under control. Needless to say, brushing your pet's teeth daily and giving them dental chews can literally add years to their life.

How advanced is your pet's periodontal disease?

Advanced periodontal disease is irreversible, so staying on top of your pet's preventive dental hygiene routine is incredibly important in making sure your pet lives a longer, healthier life.

In veterinary medicine, periodontal disease is usually categorized into four grades:

  • Grade 1: This is when there is inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth.

  • Grade 2: The pet will have inflammation of the gum tissue and bleeding gums. At this grade, 25% of tissue attachment to teeth is missing and causes loss of teeth.

  • Grade 3: The pet will have inflamed and bleeding gums with pustular discharge due to the infection. The pet’s mouth will begin to smell rancid and there will be moderate bone loss with anywhere from 25% to 50% decrease of attachment.

  • Grade 4: Your pet will have the same symptoms as a Grade 3 including severe bone loss and tooth mobility. At this grade, there is a likelihood of 50% or more of the attachment loss.

How to prevent periodontal disease in pets

Periodontal therapy should be the ultimate goal for all pet parents to control the plaque buildup. Of course, everyone is busy and this won’t be easy, but it’s important. We recommend that at your pet’s yearly veterinary exam, ask your veterinarian about your pet’s oral health.

Depending on your pet’s cooperation, the veterinarian should be able to give you an idea on the status of your pet’s dental health. The best assessment of this, however, is likely done under anesthesia.

Schedule professional teeth cleanings for your pet

Schedule your pet for their first cleaning with the understanding that the grade of your pet’s periodontal disease can change. A Grade 1 and 2 would be a professional cleaning, which includes scaling, irrigation, polishing, and a fluoride application. For a Grade 3, the veterinarian will perform the same procedures as a Grade 1 and 2 procedure, but there is a high probability of tooth removal. Once the doctors begin removing teeth, this becomes oral surgery.

At Grade 4, the doctor will be removing teeth along with the same procedures of the scaling, irrigation, polishing, and fluoride of the remaining teeth. If your pet had any one of the four procedures done or you are starting today, the ultimate goal is to prevent plaque buildup from reoccurring.

Brush your pet's teeth regularly

At home, you can brush your pet’s teeth using veterinary approved toothpaste. Do not use the same toothpaste that is meant for human usage because it could contain the ingredient xylitol, which is deadly for pets.

This can be challenging at first, but once you know how to brush your pet's teeth and with continued practice, your pet will get used to the procedure.

Give your pet dental treats

Dental treats can help break down the plaque on teeth. Just make sure you choose vet-recommended dental treats and products to ensure the most success.

It's also recommended that you do not feed your dog canned or soft food because it causes plaque buildup on the teeth. And finally, when purchasing pet food, look for specific brands of food that help with tartar control.

If you have any questions about periodontal disease or your pet's dental health in general, the Vet Pros at Pawp are here to help 24/7.

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