February is National Pet Dental Health Month, which is why we are shining a light on dental disease for dogs and cats and how to help your furry companion keep their pearly whites! According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs suffer from gum disease by the time they are 3 years old - and these figures may even be underestimates. Gum disease is silent and has no outward signs or symptoms in its early stages, but there are ways to prevent this painful fate for our beloved cats and dogs. Continue reading to learn more about this disease and how we can stop it from happening to our pets!
Where Does Dental Disease Begin?
Just like in humans, many diseases of the gums and teeth start with bacteria. After eating, bacteria stick to the surface of our pet's teeth and forms a film called plaque. This plaque is recognized as a foreign invader, which releases white blood cells to attack. In response, the bacteria command the white blood cells to release enzymes which break down gum tissue. This back-and-forth results in inflamed gums, destroyed tissue, and loss of bone, which may all culminate in tooth loss. Periodontal disease happens in dogs five times more than it does in humans due to their mouth having a more alkaline nature, which fosters plaque growth.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
Unfortunately, dental disease in pets has very few early symptoms and only becomes noticeable once it has achieved an advanced stage. Pets are silent sufferers and may be hiding illness under their calm demeanor, but there are still symptoms to keep a look out for when determining if your pet needs dental care. Symptoms include problems picking up food, discolored gums, bad breath, bumps in the mouth, not wanting the head touched, and chewing on one side of the mouth. By simply lifting your pet's lip, you can take a look into their oral cavity and possibly identify any of these symptoms which can be warning signs for something more dangerous.
Dental Disease Prevention
Periodontal disease can cause complications with the heart, kidneys, and liver, which adds to the importance of getting ahead of this dangerous affliction. That being said, there are a few ways to maintain a positive and healthy environment within your pet's mouth! Bring your pet in for regular oral exams and cleanings, as these are the only way to get a full picture of what is going on below their gum line. Brush your pet's teeth daily - a little patience goes a long way towards keeping plaque at bay in between cleanings! Furthermore, select quality food for your pet that can assist with scrubbing their teeth as they chew and offer your pet softer toys for daily chewing.
Just as we prioritize staying on top of our own dental health, we should also be looking out for our beloved pets' teeth. Preventing dental disease can give your pet a healthier and longer life! If you have any questions regarding your pet's dental health, please contact your local veterinary experts at Bayshore Animal Hospital. Our team of pet lovers always ensure the best care possible in Port Orange and we will assist you with everything you need to keep your pet's mouth healthy.