What You Should Know About Pet Dental Disease

Dental disease affects every body system in your pet (not to mention that it’s painful), so a little knowledge is power when it comes to your pet’s dental health. If you’ve ever had severe tooth pain, you can surely relate to what your pets may be going through – they get all the same kinds of tooth problems that people do. Below are some answers to common pet owner questions about dental diseases in pets.

What are the signs and symptoms of dental disease?

There are a number of things that should alert you to dental disease in your pet:

  • Pawing at the face or mouth
  • Decreased food intake
  • Chewing with obvious pain
  • Very foul breath odor

How common is it?

More common than many realize! 60 percent of cats and 80 percent of dogs over three years old have some degree of dental disease.

What causes it?

The most common cause of dental problems is tartar accumulation. Pets accumulate bacteria on the surface of their teeth, which mineralizes to form tartar over time. Tartar starts at the gumline, especially on the back teeth.

Tartar on the teeth leads to inflammation of the gums. In the early stages of disease, a thorough dental cleaning by your vet leads to a full recovery. Your veterinarian can also help show you proper brushing technique for prevention.

If it goes unchecked, periodontal disease can occur. The bone that supports the tooth gets destroyed leading to tooth loss and infection around the root. Infection spreads deep into the tooth socket creating an abscess, or it can also enter the blood stream affecting the heart, kidneys and other organs.

What should I do if my pet has signs of dental problems?

If your pet has evidence of tooth disease you should take them to your family vet for an examination and cleaning. All dental cleanings are done under anesthesia. X-rays help determine if a tooth has disease where the naked eye can’t see – below the gumline at the roots. Dental X-rays are an important part of dental cleaning.

For complicated tooth issues, veterinary dentists (specialists in oral surgery and dentistry) are available in most cities. Many general practitioners do an excellent job of cleaning teeth and most routine dental work. A dental cleaning costs anywhere from a low of $100-200 to several times that for complex and more involved dental work. The costs are usually higher for older pets.

Usually a dental cleaning every 6-12 months is enough to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.

What can I do to help prevent dental disease in my pet?

One of the most effective ways to keep your pet’s teeth healthy is to brush them frequently. Toothpastes and brushes are available from your vet or pet supplies retailer and are designed for a pet’s mouth. Daily brushing should be a regular part of your pet health care routine, along with grooming, exercise and vet visits. Most pets get used to tooth-brushing quickly and will let you do it very easily. Pet toothpastes are usually malt or meat flavor, since dogs and cats don’t enjoy the mint human flavors.

With a little help from your family vet and little work on your part, you can help increase your pet’s health by keeping their teeth healthy. You’ll be glad you did and you’ll love the fresh breath that comes with it.

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