Dental disease is an extremely common condition in cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs that can cause severe morbidity and lead to or worsen other disease processes.
Approximately 80% of cats and dogs will have some degree of dental disease after about 3 years of age – ranging from mild to severe. Unfortunately dental disease can be difficult to assess by owners as a lot of the disease process occurs under the gumline – this is called periodontal disease. This results in a lot of our pets suffering from dental disease without their owners knowledge.
How does peridontal disease occur?
Peridontal disease occurs when bacteria in the mouth mineralise and harden to form calculus (or tarter) which is firmly attached to the tooth. Once this tarter spreads under the gumline, the bacteria continue to build up and produce toxins which attack the tooth root, the ligament holding the tooth in its socket and the actual jaw bone itself. This leads to destruction of the tooth and its surrounding bone and connective tissue causing pain and inflammation within the mouth. At this point a general anaesthesia is required as teeth may need to be removed that are badly damaged.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
- Margin of attached gingiva (gum) is swollen and painful
- Plaque on teeth
- Treatment can reverse condition
Stage 2: Early Periodontitis
- Entire attached gum is swollen and painful and may bleed with contact
- Bade breath is more noticable
- Professional dental treatment and home preventative care can prevent this from becomming irreversible
Stage 3: Moderate Periodontitis
- Cherry red and bleeding atachd gum is being destroyed by infection and tartar build up
- Sore mouth affects eating and behaviour
- Tooth roots begin to become exposed and jaw bone is starting to be eaten away by bacteria
- Bad breath is more evident
- Damage is irreversible - professinal dental treatment required to prevent further damage
Stage 4: Advanced Periodontitis
- Chronic bacteria infection destroying the gum, tooth and bone
- Bacteria begins spreading throughout entire body via the bloodstream and may be attacking the kidneys, liver and heart predominantly
- Chronic pain may result in animals being unable to eat any dry/hard food
Peridontal disease can also have devastating effects on other organs within the body such as:
- Infection in the jaw bone which predisposes to jaw fracture
- Sinus disease
- Throat and lung disease
- Bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing disease in the heart (especially the heart valves), kidneys and liver
- Chronic dental disease also puts the body in a constant state of “stress” this means that having disease in the mouth can result in delayed healing of wounds and complications with other health issues.
What are the signs of dental disease?
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty eating or not wanting to chew
- Cats will often stop grooming themselves and get matted fur
- Jaw chattering
- Weight loss from inappetence or inability to eat properly – especially in rabbits with overgrown teeth
- Bleeding gums
Animals predisposed to dental disease:
- Animals with brachycephalic syndrome (Bulldogs, Pugs, Persians) due to the conformation of their skull
- Small breed dogs with a cramped mouth
- Cats suffering from “cat flu”
- Animals fed a mostly wet food diet
- Rabbits and guinea pigs only fed pellets
- All cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs regardless of age, breed, gender and diet.
At Emerald Vet Clinic we offer free dental checks to assess your pet’s dental health and discuss treatment options.
Options often include:
- Home dental care (diets, brushing teeth, oral liquids/mouth wash)
- Dental scale and polish under general anaesthesia where each tooth is thoroughly examined and treated as required. (This should NEVER be performed without anaesthesia as it can be painful and frightening for the animal as well as dangerous for staff. It also does not allow for a thorough enough examination of each tooth and treatment as required)
- Referral to specialist dentists for advanced orthodontics
- Radiographs taken of the mouth to inspect the jaw and teeth in their entirety