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Oral Hygiene and Diseases in Dogs and Cats

When we think of going to the dentist ourselves, we might just think in terms of preventing cavities and getting our teeth polished. But there is a whole range of other dental issues that can affect dogs and cats that pet owners should be aware of. As well as being painful for your pet and potentially expensive to treat, they can also develop into larger issues for your pet’s health.

Common oral diseases

Gingivitis – technically, this is a term given to any inflammation of the gums. But this is usually caused by the presence of bacteria that has accumulated as plaque. Gingivitis is not only painful for your pet, but if left untreated will develop into periodontal disease.

Periodontitis– this second stage of periodontal disease occurs when bacteria enters below the gumline, developing into plaque and calculus. From here the bacteria cause inflammation and damage to the gum and bone structure, resulting in bone loss and loose, painful teeth.

Pyorrhea – this is the advanced stage of periodontitis. Once the damage has occurred to the structural tissue that supports the tooth, the tooth is loosened and pus develops in the tooth socket. This usually results in the loss of the tooth.

Stomatitis– mainly affecting cats, this is an exaggerated immune system response to the presence of bacteria in the mouth. The oral cavity becomes inflamed and very painful, making it difficult for the animal to eat. When occurring with gingivitis, this is known as gingivostomatitis.

Caries (cavities) – there are not as common in animals as they are in humans, mainly due to the lack of sugar in their diet. However, they do occur and should be checked for. If a cavity has progressed to the point where it has damaged the pulp canal, it will need to be removed or treated with root canal therapy.

Oral cancers – any growth or mass in the mouth should be examined by a professional. Although it may be benign, malignant oral cancers can spread quickly and can be fatal if not treated early.

Tooth resorption– affecting both dogs and cats, this is an issue in which lesions destroy the healthy tooth resulting in a loss of structure. This is different from cavities in that it is not caused by bacteria, and that there will be no outward signs of the tooth resorption until the lesions have progressed to the oral cavity. Tooth resorption in its early stages is usually detected with the use of x-ray.

Related health issues

The oral diseases listed above are the most direct result of poor oral care, but dental problems can have repercussions on the rest of your pet’s health too. Bacteria is one of the main causes of oral diseases, and this can easily spread to other parts of the body. If t reaches the gums, it will be absorbed into the bloodstream, where it can spread to the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and even the brain.

In addition, poor dental health is linked to:

  • Sepsis (infection of the blood)
  • Osteomyelitis (infection of the bones)
  • Heart disease
  • Joint disease
  • High blood pressure

So by taking a proactive approach to your pets dental care, you are not only protecting them from damage to their teeth and mouth but preventing more serious problems with their general wellbeing.


Oral Hygiene and Diseases in Dogs and Cats

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