Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease and dental disease is one of the most common diseases found in cats and dogs. This disease is caused by a bacterial infection in the mouth of animals that damages the mouth’s soft tissues. It is the main cause of early tooth loss. Periodontal disease is reported to affect about 87% of dogs and 70% of cats.
The bacteria that cause Periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream and damage other parts of the body. These parts are often the heart, liver and kidneys. The liver and kidney are vulnerable to the effects of gum disease. Infections in the liver and kidneys cause systemic infections like fever, weight loss and decreased appetite.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
The most noticeable symptom of Periodontal disease is bad breath because of the plaque and tartar build-up in its mouth. Other symptoms include,
- Bleeding gums
- Drooling more than usual
- Inability to chew
- Damaged teeth
- Bumps or lumps in the mouth
It is important to get the animal examined as soon as such symptoms show up to prevent the disease from further spreading. If Periodontal disease is left untreated, it could lead to chronic pain, missing teeth, eroded gums, and bone loss.
Stages of Periodontal Disease
There are four basic stages a cat or dog with Periodontal disease goes through.
Sage 1: Gingivitis
The first stage of Periodontal disease is Gingivitis. During this stage, the animal’s gums can be swollen, and more reddish than usual. Their gums will also be soft and retracted accompanied by bad breath. Poor oral care is usually the main reason for this disease. Gingivitis can usually be prevented or treated with proper hygiene.
Stage 2: Early Attachment Loss
At stage 2, the calculus and tartar grown around the tooth will be extended to the root of the tooth. This causes the tooth to loosen. Since calculus and tartar have reached the root, this will help the bacteria spread more. At this stage, about 25% of the tooth is loosened. Their gums will also look red and inflated.
Stage 3: Moderate Attachment Loss
If Periodontal disease is left untreated after stage 2, the calculus will keep on growing further into the root of the tooth. At this stage, the tooth will get more loose increasing from 25% up to 50%.
Stage 4: Severe Attachment Loss
If Periodontal disease has reached stage 4, which is the last stage, the animal’s tooth will most likely be more than 50% loosened. The calculus and plaque will also grow massive resulting in more inflammation in the gum and the tartar would be clearly visible. If this stage is reached, teeth extraction might be recommended since the tooth is severely damaged.
Diagnosis of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease is diagnosed when your vet observes plaque or loosened teeth during regular health check-ups. If such signs are seen, the vet will have an X-ray taken for a closer look at your pet’s teeth. If the vet notices any calculus, tartar or plaque around the animal’s teeth, they will suggest treatments based on what they see.
Tartar that is build-up above the gum-line can be noticed fairly easily, it looks like brown concrete build-up around the tooth. But tartar under the gum line cannot be seen as easily. Tartar below the gum-line can cause problems since they can infect other tissues too.
Treatments for Periodontal Disease
The treatments given for a pet with Periodontal disease depends on how far the disease has spread.
If your pet is at stage 1: Gingivitis, it can be treated with fluorides which can prevent plaque build-up. Advice for proper teeth care will also be given and if followed, your pet can be completely cured.
If your pet is in stage 2 or 3, the vet will do a thorough clean up on the infected tooth to remove the plaque. This will be scaling or scraping both below and above the gum-line to make sure that no plaque is left. They will also polish the tooth to prevent plaque from reforming.
If stage 4 is reached, you will likely be asked to go for surgery to extract the damaged tooth.
Prevention of Periodontal Disease
Brushing your pet’s mouth regularly will prevent a bacterial build up. Make sure to use toothbrushes and toothpaste designed especially for pets. Checking for bad breath or damaged gums are also important.
You could also take advice from your vet for foods that could prevent tartar from forming. Regular check-ups on your pet’s teeth are also important, especially if your pet is prone to periodontal disease.
Why is Periodontal Disease Common in Cats and Dogs?
Periodontal disease is common in dogs and cats because unlike humans, they cannot brush their teeth. The main cause for Periodontal disease is bacteria creating plaque on teeth which then spreads. Since dogs and cats cannot clean them, they infect the animals’ mouths.
Is Periodontal Disease Painful?
Periodontal disease starts silently with no or unseen symptoms. But when it grows with time, it can cause severe chronic pain, missing teeth, eroded gums, and bone loss.
Is Periodontal Disease Curable?
If your pet is at stage 1 of Periodontal disease, it’s not too difficult to reverse. If the tooth has reached stage 2 or more, then the only thing that could be done is prevent it from spreading more. Extracting the tooth will likely be done if stage 4 is reached.