So, how is your pet’s breath? Bad enough to knock over a horse at 20 feet? If so, then your pet probably has periodontal disease — the most common disease in domestic dogs and cats.
A form of dental disease, periodontal disease starts when bacteria combine with saliva and food debris and build up on the tooth to form plaque. More bacteria and calcium salts combine with the plaque to form tartar, that crusty-looking layer on the tooth.
The tartar then causes pockets of pus to develop along the gumline, leading to receding and bleeding gums, pain, bad breath, and, ultimately, tooth loss, i.e., periodontal disease. Worse, the infection caused by periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream, leading to heart, liver, and kidney infection, which can cause serious problems, especially in elderly pets.
Common signs of oral disease include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, and pawing at the face or mouth. If any of these signs exist, see your veterinarian right away.
Thirty years ago, who would have ever thought that pet dental care would become this important? Well, back then, most pets weren’t sharing our beds at night; they were more likely to be yard pets. They also chewed on things that may have kept the tartar down but didn’t successfully pass through their digestive tract, and they didn’t live as long as they do now.
Also, more of our pets are smaller household dogs with smaller mouths. These toy breed dogs have significantly less bone around their teeth; therefore, even mild periodontal disease can cause decay and tooth loss. For cats and dogs of all sizes, dental care should be a regular part of your routine.
Be sure to discuss dental care with your vet.
This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post. It may have been updated since its original publication.