Contrary to popular belief dogs and cats should not have bad breath. Most causes for the bad smell are dental or periodontal disease. Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most over looked aspects of their health. The American Veterinary dental society reports that 80% of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Dental disease can lead to other diseases including heart disease and kidney disorders. Pets cannot tell us when they have a toothache, but may show signs of discomfort such as reluctance to eat, drooling excessively or rubbing their mouths with their paws or on the floor. They may cry when their mouths are touched or have swelling around their faces.
Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding a tooth. The first stage of this disease is Plaque. Plaque is a soft bacterial film that can be removed by brushing the teeth or by chewing hard food and toys. If left to spread it can lead to Gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red, swollen or to bleed easily.
As plaque and tartar develop below the gum line, a cleaning by your pet’s doctor will be needed to help manage it. If left alone to progress, it can cause furcation or exposure of the root junctions of a tooth with more than one root. The last stages of periodontal disease are the destruction of the tissues surrounding the tooth and erosion of the socket that hold the tooth in place causing it to loosen.
The best ways to prevent periodontal disease are; oral examinations on a regular basis and dental cleanings. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends that veterinarians evaluate puppies and kittens for problems related to the deciduous or “Baby” teeth, missing or extra teeth, swellings, and proper oral development. As you pet grows your veterinarian will be able to notice any development anomalies, or the accumulation of tartar and plaque, the onset of periodontal disease or presence of oral growths. Most examinations take place during a regular visit. However, if warranted the veterinarian might recommend a full dental cleaning. This procedure would be considered as surgery and you pet would be placed under general anesthesia. The veterinarian may recommend lab work to screen for any abnormalities before scheduling. During a dental cleaning your pet’s doctor would use a similar instrument as a human dentist to remove all the plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. Any loose or damaged teeth may be removed at this time. Then the teeth are polished with a special paste to smooth out any scratches in the enamel.