Dental Disease in Dogs & Cats

Oral hygiene is a very important issue for dogs and cats. The bad breath that is so common in pets is also often the first sign of dental disease. By 2 years of age, 85 percent of dogs and cats have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease begins with the accumulation of plaque on the teeth which, if not removed, then hardens into tartar. Tartar accumulation causes sensitive, sore, and swollen gums as well as gingivitis. At this point your pet is suffering from advanced dental disease. As well as the visible cosmetic problems, advanced dental disease also has an effect on many internal organs. Bad teeth in dogs and cats has been scientifically linked to heart, lung, and kidney problems, which can shorten the life of your pet.

The progression of dental disease is affected by breed and diet. In dogs, smaller breeds tend to experience dental problems at a younger age than their larger counterparts. In cats, mixed breeds do not suffer from dental disease as much as purebreds do. Many years ago, it was believed that animals should always be fed dry food to help keep tartar at bay and prevent dental issues. That way of thinking has been replaced, and the Veterinary Dental Society does not consider dry food or canned food to make a difference.

It is recommended that you always try to prevent dental disease, but if your pet already shows signs of dental issues such as loose teeth, swelling gums or oral infection, a deep cleaning performed by your veterinarian under general anesthesia may be necessary.

There are many basic steps that can be taken to prevent dental disease at home. A raw diet seems to be the best for oral health, and dogs should be offered one or two raw bones weekly. When you offer bones to your dog, be sure to stay away from pork or chicken as they can splinter, and offer lamb or goat bones instead. Large dogs can also chew on beef bones, but be sure to freeze the bone first and take it away from your dog after an hour to avoid broken teeth. Also keep in mind that beef bones do make quite a mess so outside may be the best place for them. To further eliminate plaque and improve the health of your pets’ mouths, you should brush their teeth daily, beginning when they are young. While there are rinses available to combat bad breath, be cautious of anything containing alcohol. Chinese herbal remedies have proven helpful in some situations, but diet and daily brushing are the best ways to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats.