Oral Disease in Pet Medicine

Patty Khuly, DVM
Updated: August 14, 2015
Published: June 26, 2006
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Did you know that diseases of the teeth and gums are the most commonly diagnosed conditions in pets? Even young pets are not immune, as 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease before age 3.

So what do you look for? Bad breath, for one, but don’t overlook changes in your pets eating habits or chewing patterns. Pets who look cute when they eat with their head turned to one side may be avoiding painful areas on one side of their mouths. And messy eaters? They might be moving food around their mouths as they try to avoid ouchy spots.

More obvious signs include facial swelling (usually on one side or the other), pawing at their faces, or avoiding food altogether.

Periodontal disease, the most common subset of oral disease, involves both inflammation of gums and deterioration of teeth. Red, receding, or easily bleeding gums are signs to look for (along with bad breath). It is critical to deal with gum disease, as innocent as it sounds, since it leads to painful cavities and severe dental infections that can lead to infection of the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Prevention includes regular dental cleaning at your veterinarian’s office. Your vet will recommend an appropriate frequency for your pet, but know that in some cases cleanings must occur as often as every three to six months.

But there’s a lot you can do at home as well:

1. frequent tooth brushing (if Fido tolerates it)

2. weekly applications of dental sealants to reduce plaque buildup (easier than brushing but best done in conjunction with it)

3. actually look at your pets` teeth (all of them!) so major problems don’t sneak up on you

Last reviewed on August 4, 2015