We all love kisses from our beloved pets, but some- times the breath behind the kiss leaves us wondering what they are eating. The stinky breath is not only a problem for our noses. Bad breath is a sign of periodontal disease, which can cause many problems for our pet’s health. Statistics show that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats over the age of three suffer from periodontal disease. The hidden bacteria in the dental tartar causes the smell to turn our noses, but also, it gets into your pet’s system and begins damaging the heart, liver and kidneys as well as causing bone infections. Could your pet have the start (or an advanced case) of periodontal disease? Pets rarely, if ever, give obvious signs of mouth pain, or problems. We only notice how bad it must have been once we take care of the problem and see how well they are acting.
So how do you know if there is a problem requiring attention? Things to look for in your pet’s mouth are a dark pink or red line at the edge of the gums where they contact the teeth, uneven tartar buildup (worse on one side or one tooth), pink gray or tan teeth, broken or missing teeth, gum swelling or sores. As the disease progresses, you can see red, inflamed or bleeding gums, gum recession, halitosis (bad breath), decreased appetite, not playing with toys, and teeth loosening or falling out. Despite advanced periodontal disease, in most cases the pet is still eating and seems “fine.” Since our pets are not brushing and flossing daily, it is up to us as pet
owners to take charge of our pet’s dental health to protect them from the problems of less than stellar dental hygiene. Prevention of arthritis, heart, liver or kidney disease starts with regular dental care at home, with an occasional periodontal therapy and teeth cleaning done by your veterinarian.
Most vets offer cleaning and polishing to remove the tartar and disease-causing bacteria. Since over 15 percent of dental disease is below the gum of a normal-looking tooth, talk to your vet about dental X-rays to ensure that unseen problems are detected and corrected before they become more serious. Anesthesia is required for dental work. Ask your vet about “low impact” anesthesia and other safety precautions that ensure your pet goes home without a hangover. Once a pet’s mouth is restored to the best possible condition, there are many options to delay the recurrence of dental disease. Brushing daily with a pet-safe toothpaste is recommended; however, if your pet or lifestyle disagrees with this, products are available to delay the return of disease-causing bacteria. Dental chews, dental rinses or dental diets are good options to clean the teeth if your pet won’t tolerate a toothbrush. Keeping your pet’s mouth clean and healthy will help your pet live a longer and healthier life.
Dr. Deanna Miller, the owner and lead veterinarian of Rising Sun Animal Care, an American Animal Hospital Association-certified (AAHA) veterinary clinic located in Lowry (303.577.0195), is dedicated to serving her neighbors and their pets in the northeast Denver area. She lives in Denver and has a 10-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son.