Periodontal disease in pets

Periodontal disease in pets occurs when the tissues that surround teeth become infected and inflamed. Bacterial plaque build-up on the teeth causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) if not removed. Over time, infection and inflammation spread deeper into the tooth sockets, destroying the bone around the tooth roots – meaning teeth may need to be extracted (if they haven’t already fallen out!). The good news is that plaque can be removed with daily dental home care, and gingivitis can be reversed if caught early

My pet’s teeth look clean on visual inspection. Does that mean they don’t have periodontal disease?

It’s not possible to fully assess periodontal disease by simply looking in a pet’s mouth. Some of the damage can only be seen by a vet during a full mouth examination with the pet under general anaesthesia. We recently shared a story from a staff pets dental procedure. You can read that story here, and you will see the exact same situation described here! Poppy appeared to have alright looking teeth for an 11 year old dog but had very smelly breath. When she was examined under sedation her teeth almost began falling out and the procedure revealed that 9 teeth needed to be extracted, well, they basically fell out! She would have been in pain, though showed no signs of pain. It is an interesting case worth reading!

Even if your pet’s teeth look clean, you can’t be sure that they don’t have periodontal disease. Speak to your vet for individual advice.

What are the first signs of periodontal disease?

The first sign of periodontal disease is usually bad breath, which is caused by bacterial build-up in your pet’s mouth. Other symptoms can be present, but smelly breath is usually the number one sign of periodontal disease.

As the disease progresses, other symptoms can appear, including:

  • Eating and drinking abnormally
  • Having a strong or unusual reaction to drinking cold water
  • Developing a selective appetite (e.g. preferring soft foods)
  • Lack of appetite and weight loss
  • Rubbing the feet on the face or shaking the head
  • Abnormal aggressive behaviour

Is bad breath normal in pets?

No – a healthy mouth shouldn’t have bad breath.

Bad breath is caused by chemicals produced by the bacteria associated with periodontal disease. Although most pet owners think bad breath is just a cosmetic problem, research shows that even small amounts of these chemicals are harmful to tissues and play a role in the development of periodontal disease.

Is toothbrushing really that much more effective than dental food/chews?

Yes – brushing daily has been shown to be over three times more effective at controlling plaque compared to a daily dental chew or dental diet. Do be careful with dental chews as many of these chews are a food substitute due to the calorie content. You should reduce that days food intake if you are giving a dental chew and aim for no more than 1 or 2 chews a week. We stock low calorie dental chews which is what we would recommend.

Should I brush my pet’s teeth every day?

The more often you brush your pet’s teeth, the more effective it is. One study found that toothbrushing decreases plaque by 37% if done daily, 25% if done every other day, and 10% if done weekly. Even just once a week has a positive impact, but do try and clean your pets teeth more regularly. We always advise that you make it a part of your bedtime routine after cleaning your own teeth. Just don’t get the toothpaste mixed up! Human toothpaste can be harmful to pets, and pet toothpaste does not taste very nice to humans!

Even if you don’t manage to brush your pet’s teeth every day, it will still have some effect, especially if you combine it with other products like water additives on days you don’t brush.

How can Orchard House Vets help?

We have practices in Hexham, Stocksfield and Bellingham and serve the wider north east community. If you would like an appointment, simply register here, or give one of our friendly team a call. If your pet does need a dental procedure our Well Pet Club offers exclusive savings.