What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is an infection or inflammation of the tissues that support the teeth. In its early stage, the disease can cause gingivitis, or gum disease, which results in swelling of the gum tissue around the teeth. In its second and more severe stage, the disease causes periodontitis, affecting the gum tissue as well as the bone at the root of the tooth and the ligament that attaches the bone to the tooth. Untreated, periodontitis can cause a weakening and progressive looseness of the teeth—sometimes even causing teeth to fall out.

How Do Dogs and Cats Get Periodontal Disease?

Good oral hygiene is just as important for dogs and cats as it is for people, and periodontal disease often occurs as the result of an animal not regularly having their teeth brushed. Without regular cleaning, undigested food is deposited onto the teeth, producing plaque. The plaque then begins to harden and mineralize into tartar, which is significantly harder—and in some cases impossible—to remove.

What Can I Do to Prevent Periodontal Disease?

To prevent periodontal disease, pet owners need to be actively involved in helping care for their dog’s or cat’s teeth. If possible, it’s best to try and brush their teeth twice a day—just like you do. However, this amount of brushing is simply not realistic for everyone, and many animals don’t like having their teeth brushed. Pet owners should keep in mind that any amount of brushing (once at the end of the day, once a week, or even once a month) is better than none at all. If you have a new puppy or kitten, try and start brushing their teeth within the first six months to help acclimate the animal to the process.

How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?

Your primary care vet should check your pet’s mouth, gums and teeth as part of their annual physical exam. If your pet shows symptoms of an early or more severe stage of periodontal disease, it may be necessary to schedule a professional cleaning. This procedure can be performed either with or without anesthetics, though sedating the animal allows the vet to perform a more complete and thorough cleaning. Still, if you’re nervous or unsure about having the vet administer anesthetics, any kind of cleaning is better than none.

What Types of Food Are Best for My Pet’s Teeth?

Dry, crunchy food is generally better for your pet’s teeth than wet food, which has a greater likelihood of sticking to the teeth and creating a buildup of plaque and eventually tartar. A dry-food diet, in addition to daily brushing (or brushing as often as possible), as well as long-lasting, non-plastic chew products, are all helpful components in promoting good oral hygiene for pets.