is the last time you had a good look inside your pet's mouth? In
the case of cats, the answer may be, "Never!" Some dogs will let
you in there, but with others, not so much.
Did you know that periodontal disease (a chronic bacterial
infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth)
is one of the most common problems seen by vets in cats and
dogs? And yes, it has the same progression and characteristics
as the periodontal disease affecting us humans.
In the case of our pets, if left untreated, periodontal
disease can shorten their lives considerably, due to the effects
of chronic infection on the heart, kidneys and liver.
Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It
begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film
that constantly forms on teeth) causes the gums to become
In the mildest form of the disease, gingivitis, the gums
redden, swell and bleed easily. There is usually little or no
discomfort. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral
hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment
and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time,
plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced
by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins
stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in
essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support
the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the
teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that
become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen
and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this
destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth
can become loose and may have to be removed.
This has happened with some of our rescued dogs, especially
the smaller ones.
Also be aware that if your pet has a broken tooth, they may
show no symptoms. This happened to my dog, & the vet discovered
it on routine exam of the mouth. He told me that he has seen
many pets in his practice with serious tooth fractures &
resulting abscesses (infection) when the pet showed no sign of
discomfort. In my pet's case, she had broken off a section of an
upper molar, & the nerve root was exposed. Luckily, it was
caught in time before any major infection set in, and the tooth
Brushing cat's teeth: http://cats.about.com/cs/healthissues/a/dentalcareplan.htm
Oral hygiene & your dog's health: http://www.thepetcenter.com/exa/oralhealth.html
Dental disease in cats & related health risks: