One of the first habits we teach our pets is the expression of love, often in the form of allowing and encouraging licking/kissing. As the years pass though, most pet owners find themselves turning away and wincing when their pet tries to kiss them. Bad breath in pets can not only ruin a pastime we all love to share with our furry best friends, it can also lead to a wide range of health issues for them.

80% of all dogs over the age of 3 years have some form of dental disease, according to studies conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It may be prudent to do some research into possible causes and ways to prevent bad breath and dental disease in your pet.

Dental Disease

Inflammation or infection in the tissue surrounding the tooth is called periodontal disease, it occurs when plaque and tartar is allowed to build up on the gums and teeth. It can lead to gum recession and can also destroy the bone surrounding problem teeth. These types of infections can lead to the tooth becoming weak and even loose, which increases the chances of the teeth falling out. Other symptoms include bloody gums, or even systemic infections.

There are 4 possible stages of periodontal disease that your veterinarian would look out for.

Stage 1:

Inflammation of the gum/gingiva (a condition often referred to as gingivitis) usually begins around one or two teeth and progresses forward if nothing preventative is done. Gingivitis develops due to the presence of tartar and bacteria growth in the mouth very similar to what we as humans experience.

If you brushed your teeth today, but you can’t remember when you last brushed your pets- please read on!

Stage 2:

At this stage, there is a small amount of bone loss visible on oral x-rays, and inflammation may now be easy to see. Bad breath would more than likely begin to develop, as well as clear signs of plaque and tartar build up. Pain should not be too severe yet for your pet, however, if left unchecked it can escalate to general discomfort. Examples of such discomfort in your pet can range from a lack of appetite to slower than usual eating. If your pet has any of these red flags it’s important that you make an appointment at your veterinary hospital for an oral exam and dental cleaning- before symptoms get any worse.

Stage 3:

Bone loss is much more prevalent in stage 3- up to 50% of the loss is visible on an oral x-ray! 

Gums will be predominantly swollen, irritated, and at an increased risk of bleeding easily. The bleeding of the gums is an important aspect of dental disease that should not be taken lightly. The open and bleeding areas along the gums can cause the bacteria growing on the teeth to enter the bloodstream. This introduction of bacteria can cause systemic infections and may make your pet more susceptible to kidney, heart, and/ or liver disease.

Stage 4: 

The final stage of dental disease is one we hope we rarely, if ever, have to treat. Bone loss at this stage is 50% or higher and not only would your pet be in considerable pain, but they now also run the risk of losing teeth for the rest of their lives. All this only furthers the risk of systemic infection as the teeth may also now be falling out on their own and the already heavily affected gums are only getting worse.

Dental Disease Prevention

Brushing your pet’s teeth may sound like an impossible task, especially if you have an older dog or cat that is not already used to it. While it should be your first plan of attack if your dog’s breath is just starting to smell bad, pet owners are often less likely to brush their pet’s teeth correctly or frequently enough to combat dental disease. Just like with people, it is imperative that your pet have oral exams and regular cleanings. Our promise is to make it less scary than it may be for you at your dentist!

How often can you say you received belly rubs and treats for a dental cleaning?

Cost increases significantly with each stage of dental disease, just as the symptoms and pain does for your pet. This is why it makes much more sense financially (and humanely) to have your pet’s mouth checked once or twice per year. Don’t worry- your best friend will repay you in sweet kisses (that you will now happily oblige!).

Always speak honestly with your veterinarian about anything different in your pet’s habits or behavior as you are the only voice for your pet. If you have questions on how to brush, or what kind of toothpaste is best (You can’t use human toothpaste for your pet!) ask them openly as your veterinarian is only here to help and never to judge.

Here at Packanack Animal Hospital, we pride ourselves in ensuring your pet is happy and healthy! We are ready to answer any question, help you feel more at ease, and guide you through any procedure. Let us first help you by scheduling your pets next appointment- give us a call at (973) 305-3652!

Contact us today with any questions or comments.