How to Prevent Pet Periodontal Disease

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Vet and Dog

Your pet could be at risk for periodontal (or gum) disease, and you may not know it. But a preventative approach, comprising regular vet visits and dental exams, cleanings, and radiographs can help you avoid painful and distressing problems while preserving your pet’s health. We’ve outlined some steps for pet owners to follow.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is basically a bacterial infection that can evolve into four degrees of severity, from plaque and mild inflammation to gingivitis and bone and tooth loss. It’s actually five times more common in dogs than in people, according to WebMD. By nature, canines’ more alkaline constitution creates a stronger breeding ground for plaque. But as in humans, regular and preventative practices and care will keep teeth and gums healthy.

Stages of gum disease

It takes time for gum disease to escalate, but there are warning signs to look for in each stage. Taking action and working with your vet will help slow or stop the progression. Here’s how the disease grows:

  1. Tartar buildup and swollen, irritated gums. To treat this stage, your vet will put your pet under anesthesia to do a thorough cleaning, and you’ll likely be called on to manage daily brushing at home.
  2. Swollen gums and 25 percent bone loss. This is still a preventative stage, and the goal is to prevent further bone loss. A cleaning under anesthesia by your vet is critical at this point.
  3. Plaque under the gum line and severe bone loss. You won’t be able to see how bad the damage is, unless you are looking at an x-ray. The tooth may need to be extracted at this stage, and it’s likely that your vet will refer you to a specialist for advanced treatment. It is possible that there may be home care involved as well.
  4. Bone level is significantly decreased. At this point, the teeth need to be extracted.

How to prevent periodontal disease

Periodontal disease may be largely silent, but these red flags will help you know when to call your vet for a check.

How do you recognize a possible problem?

  • Your pet may have bad breath
  • They may resist when you try to examine their teeth
  • Quivering lips
  • Mood changes
  • Red, swollen gums and tartar
  • The crown bulge or teeth roots are visible
  • Mouth wounds or ulcers are visible
  • Decreased appetite, activity and more time spent sleeping
  • Unable to hold or eat hard food and treats

Owners often wait to consult their vet until there is a definite or very noticeable issue with their pet, but when it comes to periodontal problems it’s far better to take action when you suspect something is off. The disease can be halted and reversed with early diagnosis, correct treatment and therapy, which is something we take seriously at Academy Animal Hospital. We pride ourself on using state-of-the-art techniques to diagnose and treat pet oral problems proactively.

Unsure of your pet’s periodontal health? Schedule an appointment to set a benchmark and put your mind at ease. You and your pet are in good hands!

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