Information to help cats and dogs with symptoms of gum diseases such as canine and feline gingivitis.
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What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is one of the most common dental problems affecting pets. Research shows that most animals over the age of 2 years suffer from gum disease. As important as it is for you to maintain good dental care by brushing your teeth every day, eating correctly and having regular dental check-ups, the same rule also applies to your dog or cat.
Although gum disease can affect both dogs and cats, certain dog breeds such as Boxers or Terriers tend to be more susceptible to this disease. Gum disease occurs as a result of a build up of food particles, saliva and bacteria known as plaque on the teeth. Plaque then hardens or calcifies into tartar under the gum line and on the teeth and causes infection. It is very painful and uncomfortable for your pet, particularly because he has no way of telling you.
When an infection develops it not only damages the gums and bones around the teeth but can also spread into the blood stream. If left untreated, bad breath, tooth loss, abscesses, gingivitis, tooth, root and jawbone infection may develop. More severe cases of gum disease can lead to kidney, liver and heart disease as well as joint disease and even organ failure.
The most common symptoms and signs of gum disease include:
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Discolored teeth
- Bloody, inflamed gums
- Receding gums
- Pawing at the mouth
- Reluctance to eat or chew food, particularly hard food
- Drops food when eating
- Behavioral changes such as depression, irritation or aggression
What Causes Gum Disease?
There are several factors that may contribute to gum disease and these include poor nutrition and dental hygiene, eating hard rocks, sticks or other foreign objects, the age of the animal, genetics, breed, and arrangement of teeth, as well as grooming habits, bacterial infections and overall health.
Diagnosing Gum Disease
The diagnosis of gum disease is based on a thorough dental examination of the mouth, gums and teeth. Certain tests such as radiographic imaging will be performed.
Help for Gum Disease
Treatment generally depends on the severity of the gum disease. It involves brushing your dog or cat’s teeth daily with a veterinary prescribed toothpaste, cleansing, polishing and fluoride application to control plaque build up and prevent loss of teeth. All procedures are done under general anesthesia so that no pain is experienced.
This is then followed by cleaning the spacing between the teeth and gums to reduce the size of the spacing between teeth. An antibiotic gel is also applied to restore periodontal tissues. More severe cases will require procedures such as periodontal splinting, bone replacement and tissue regeneration. Looking after your pet’s teeth remains your responsibility and entails feeding him a healthy and nutritious diet, daily home dental care and regular veterinary check ups.
Tips to prevent gum disease in pets
There are certain things that pet owners can do to prevent gum disease and maintain the overall dental health and these include:
- Feed your pet high quality, commercial food or a well-balanced, all natural diet without preservatives, additives or colorants
- Incorporate large, raw marrow bones into your dog’s diet and raw chicken necks for cats. Make sure that the marrow bones for your dog are large enough so that they cannot be swallowed
- Brush and clean your pet’s teeth and gums daily to prevent gum disease
- Use a toothbrush with a small head to brush your pet’s teeth – you can obtain specially designed toothbrushes for pets from your local vet
- Check your pet’s mouth, teeth and gums regularly for bleeding, bad breath, inflamed gums, and tartar buildup
- Cats generally do like their mouths been opened, therefore start handling his mouth when he is still a kitten so that he may become accustomed to this experience
- Never use human toothpaste or baking soda to brush your pet’s teeth – use a veterinary prescribed or natural toothpaste
- Give your pet dental toys, treats and chews such as pig’s ears, rawhide bones, trotters and noses – these treats encourage them to chew and also helps to remove plaque
- Make sure that your pet has an annual dental cleaning from your vet