Fido's dog breath and Tabby's tuna breath aren't something to be ignored - they
could be indicative of an oral problem, and the sooner you have it treated by your
veterinarian (and learn to care for it yourself), the sooner you and your pet can
smile proudly. Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding the
teeth that takes hold in progressive stages. It starts out as a bacterial film
called plaque. The bacteria attach to the teeth. When the bacteria die they can be
calcified by calcium in saliva. This forms a hard, rough substance called tartar or
calculus which allows more plaque to accumulate. Initially, plaque is soft and
brushing or chewing hard food and toys can dislodge it. If left to spread, plaque
can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and
swollen and to bleed easily. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line,
professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the
plaque and tartar buildup continues unchecked, infection can form around the root
of the tooth. In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding
the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes and the tooth
becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but
these problems can be averted before they even start.
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the Most Common Disease Occurring in Pet Dogs and Cats
You make the choice for your pet!
The cause of gum disease is the same in cats and dogs as it is in people.
Gum disease is an infection resulting from build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue if plaque is allowed to accumulate, which often leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth.
Hard dental tartar (calculus) consists of calcium salts from saliva deposited on plaque. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean, and provides a rough surface that enhances further plaque accumulation. Once it has begun to grow in thickness, tartar is difficult to remove without dental instruments.
Bad breath is the most common effect noted by owners. However, this is often only the tip of the iceberg.
The gums become irritated, leading to bleeding and oral pain, and your cat or dog may lose its appetite or drop food from its mouth while eating.
The roots may become so severely affected that some teeth become loose and fall out.
Bacteria surrounding the roots gain access to the blood stream ("bacteremia"). Studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal disease have more severe microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease.
The key to management of gum disease (for humans or pets!) is prevention. As long as the surfaces of the teeth are cleaned frequently, the gums will stay healthy.
Excellent oral health is maintained by daily oral hygiene. The gold standard is brushing. Daily chewing activities can also be effective in maintaining oral health.
Daily use of products that have been awarded the VOHC Seal will help to keep your pet's teeth clean and the gum tissues and bone around the
VOHC recommends periodic veterinary examination of the mouth and teeth of your dog or cat. Many pets, particularly middle-aged and older cats and dogs, require periodic professional scaling in addition to on-going plaque control.