Understanding Dental Disease In Cats & Dogs & 3 Ways You May Prevent It!

Understanding Dental Disease In Cats & Dogs & 3 Ways You May Prevent It!

February is National Pet Dental Health Month; I wanted to share information on pet dental health, periodontal disease, what to look for, and how it can affect the health and longevity of your dogs and cats. Most importantly, what YOU can do to prevent and protect your pets from periodontal disease. 

February is National Pet Dental Health Month; I wanted to share information on pet dental health, periodontal disease, what to look for, and how it can affect the health and longevity of your dogs and cats. Most importantly, what YOU can do to prevent and protect your pets from periodontal disease

My name is Dr. Lucretia Greear, owner of Woodhaven Animal Hospital, located in Woodhaven, Michigan. Today, I will share four key pet dental health topics vital to your dog or cat's wellness. Including what you should look for, what we as veterinarians look for, and what you can do to help prevent periodontal disease and maintain healthy teeth for your pets.

The Basics Of Dental Health 

First, it's critical to understand dental disease can be very serious in dogs and cats. Dental health can be affected by genetics as well as lifestyle and diet. As a pet parent, you can influence your pet's mouth health. Regular dental care is vital to maintain healthy teeth and gums and helps ensure you have a happy, healthy pet. Dental disease can be severe and lead to acute health problems. Besides the noticeable negative side effect of bad breath, painful teeth and gums, and loss of appetite dental disease can also result in infectious and life-threatening kidney, liver, and heart disease in your dog or cat. 

Why Is Proper Dental Care Critical For Your Dog Or Cat's Health?

Taking care of your pet's teeth can prevent many serious illnesses. The bacteria from the oral cavity can accumulate and enter the bloodstream, leading to bacterial plaques on the heart valves, causing heart murmurs and impaired heart function. 

When there is excessive tartar, it can also put an incredible strain on the significant filter organs of the body, the liver, and kidneys. There are test kits your Veterinarian can run that measure tVeterinarianthe bacterial flora in the oral cavity. That information can help your vet determine your pet's most appropriate prevention plan. 

Regular oral and dental evaluations are vital to every wellness visit with our four-legged patients. Discussions with pet parents, typically involve educating on how too look for peridontal disease signs and how to maintain oral health. We capture extensive imagery to visualize the entire oral cavity and photograph your pet's mouth from multiple views for review and reference. We not only examine the teeth, but we also look far down the throat, inside the cheeks, the base, and underneath the tongue, and we always include palpation of the lymph nodes in the neck that drain from the oral cavity.

What Are The Four Stages Of Dental Disease In Dogs & Cats

There are four stages of dental disease. Understanding what stage your pet falls in helps inform your course of action and is crucial after a dental check with your vet.

  • Grade 1: Your pet has a small amount of gingivitis, primarily characterized by periodontal or dental disease. There may be some redness on the gums, but generally, the teeth are free and clear of tartar and heavy debris.
  • Grade 2: Your pet can start having heavy tartar and debris and typically some degree of gingivitis. That is when we see redness or irritation to the gum line.
  • Grade 3: Your pet has tartar, and heavy buildup on the teeth has caused the gum line to start to recede, allowing the infection to build up in the oral cavity, get closer to the tooth root, and potentially begin to cause tooth root abscesses and bone infection.
  • Grade 4: Your pet's teeth start to become loose. There is a significant amount of bone decay or osteomyelitis, an infection inside the bone in the teeth. Usually, teeth are lost. This is beyond medical treatment and oral care products. We will need extractions and antibiotics, or we run the risk of some of these more severe complications of advanced dental disease. This is the most severe.

How Can I Prevent Dental Disease In My Pet?

OK, now that you understand a dental examination and have the essential information on dental disease, let's talk about how you can help.

Should I Brush My Dog Or Cat's Teeth?

I rarely recommend brushing to maintain good oral health in most pets. Generally, brushing your pet's teeth can ruin relationships, as most fur babies are NOT happy about having their teeth brushed. For many, it's painful and uncomfortable; most tend to be uncooperative. Teeth brushing isn't always bad, though. You must make sure you start young and be consistent. If you wait until there's already a dental disease, this dramatically increases the incidence of tooth root access and more severe illness due to the mechanical displacement of harmful bacteria. Brushing in the wrong patient can irritate the gum line and move harmful bacteria further under the gum line, accelerating dental disease and tooth decay. 

How Do I Keep My Dog Or Cat's Teeth Clean?

The BEST and most effective methods to keep the oral cavity clean in an animal typically involve using natural enzymes and probiotic products and encouraging natural chewing behaviors. Relying on the abrasiveness of kibble or physical, mechanical abrasion of the teeth by brushing will most often disappoint pet parents.  

Is There A Dental Disease Test For My Dog Or Cat?

Yes, Oral Health Microbiome Testing! Here are a few companies that provide testing: 

Essentially, these tests measure the biome or bacteria in the oral cavity. By measuring and identifying characteristics of the bacterial profile in the mouth, we can learn a lot about your pet and help determine the best oral care plan. These tests are becoming more readily available, and there are numerous reputable options to choose from. The information obtained from these tests can be invaluable for preventing periodontal disease in your pet. Contact us about oral health biome testing and see if there is information that you can learn to help your pet.

Dental Cleaning & Surgical Procedure Options For Pets

If we have exceeded medical management or home care options to maintain oral health, your pet may be a candidate for a dental surgical procedure. In some pets, it may be possible to have a non-surgical or rough cleaning to free up the gum line, so over-the-counter dental products can work better. There are many options with dental health products, and every animal is unique- talk to your Veterinarian to determine what prodVeterinariant is for you.

Dr. Lucretia Greear is the lead Veterinarian at the Woodhaven AnimaVeterinariann Woodhaven, Michigan. She specializes in holistic treatments and has an extensive background working with cancer patients. Dr. Greear grew up in Ohio and studied veterinary medicine at Michigan State University. Dr. Greear has always wanted to care for those who don't have a voice. Opening and running her practice has been her passion for several years. Dr. Greear is married and has four wonderful and highly active boys involved in sports. When she's not at the hospital, you'll find her being THAT sports mom, yelling and screaming, cheering them on. Dr. Greear has several pets, including dogs, reptiles, chickens (yes, chickens), and bunnies.

Lucretia Greear, DVM. CVA (Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist)
Woodhaven Animal Hospital
20376 Van Horn Rd.
Woodhaven, MI 48183
(734) 561-3795 


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