Periodontal disease is an epidemic condition in dogs and cats, affecting to some degree almost 90% of adult pets. Not only does dental disease lead to painful mouths and tooth loss, but left untreated, periodontal disease increases the risk for chronic infections in the mouth, potentially spreading to other areas of the body, including the liver, lungs, kidneys and heart.
Because of these increased disease risks in our animal companions, I can't stress enough the importance for long term pet health and comfort, and for animal guardians to be regularly and actively involved in their pets' preventative dental health care.
It is therefore extremely imperative that guardians be aware of the top five clinical signs of dangerous dental problems in dogs and cats.
These top clinical symptoms observed by pet owners include:
The buildup of yellowish brown plaque like deposits and tartar on the teeth
Reluctance or difficulty in eating, from having pain on chewing food, along with subsequent weight loss
Sometimes an infected tooth can lead to sudden swelling on one side of the pet's face. With our feline friends we are seeing epidemic immune-mediated inflammation of the gums and oral cavity known as feline gingivitis/stomatitis, which can often be very difficult to treat.
Many times when these symptoms are present, dental X-rays and an initial ultrasonic dental scaling under anesthesia are needed to be done by your veterinarian to address such pathology of the teeth and gums. Systemic antibiotics, as well as dental extractions may be needed. However, if pet owners start with oral dental home care when animals are puppies or kittens, or after an ultrasonic scaling, they can indeed help tremendously in a preventative capacity to avoid some of these future health problems.
Keeping pets healthy with regular teeth brushing is probably the most important measure to reduce the risk of oral disease. My favorite product is C.E.T enzymatic toothpaste, which contains two enzymes that not only prevent plaque buildup, but can sometimes digest the plaque right off a pet's teeth when brushed regularly and applied by the animal guardian.
For those pets that experience difficulty during brushing, using dental water additives and rinses such as Be Fresh Dental Care Solution, C.E.T. Oral Rinse, and C.E.T. Aquadent may help soothe gum inflammation, freshen breath, and kill harmful bacteria involved in plaque buildup and progressive periodontal disease.
There is also the option of using pet dental chews and treats, which also can help with breaking down plaque and tartar involved in bad breath. Two excellent chews I have found helpful are Greenies Dental Chews, and C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews. For my holistic-oriented clients I have found that feeding dogs raw (NOT cooked) marrow bones, beef backs, chicken backs, as well as feeding cats raw chicken wings can make a remarkable difference in the health of the teeth and gums. Although many veterinarians are vehemently against giving raw bones for fear of E. coli or salmonella exposure, salmonella has actually been part of normal cats’ digestive tract flora in many cases, and cause little problem in most pets, unless they are immune suppressed and/or on immune suppressive therapy.
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By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners® ColorChoice®
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