Gum problems afflict many of us and even if the symptoms aren’t evident at first, as the disease advances it can cause chronic pain, missing teeth and eroded gums. Cats and dogs can have these problems as well, so here’s what you should know about pet periodontal disease and its treatment.
The cause for the periodontal disease is bacteria in plaque and it is prevalent in dogs and cats. The disease is infectious and progresses over time, so it is important to know the current stage it is in to determine a proper treatment.
How the disease starts
The periodontium is comprised of four tissues: the gingiva, the periodontal ligament, the alveolar bone and the root cementum. The periodontium is the layer protecting the teeth and this disease destroys this layer leading to severe teeth problems and the eventual loss of teeth.
You could describe the periodontal disease as a struggle between the immune system and the bacteria with tissues being destroyed in the process through the release of toxins. The immune system tries to destroy the bacteria and in this process the gums have to suffer too, so they become red and start to bleed while chewing.
This is only the first stage of the disease as it progresses much further to lead to more pain. The supporting bone below the gums is infected and then destroyed in the next stages leading to the pets becoming reluctant to eat and express a lot of discomfort. The final stage makes the teeth become loose and might fall out.
This isn’t the end of the problem because the bacterial toxins and destroyed tissues with bacteria still living on them can enter the blood stream and lead to other injury to organs like the heart, liver or kidney. Jaw fractures can also occur in the final stage.
To properly assess the stage of the disease some dental radiographs and periodontal probing is needed and once the diagnosis of the stage is made, the veterinarian can start with the proper treatment.
Stages of the disease and their symptoms
In stage one (no bone loss and normal periodontal probing) you only need to clean above and below the gum line, but most owners only bring their pets to a vet check when things advance further.
Stage two starts with periodontal pockets between the gum and tooth without any bone loss and here the treatment means the cleaning of the gum tissue and tooth root after which a gel is applied to help the gum reattach itself to the tooth root.
In stage three the periodontal pockets go very deep and bone loss now starts to happen. Things get really complicated here and there might be a need to open a gum flap and clean the tissue around the root after which therapy is needed to grow new tissue and bone.
At the final stage bone loss is of over 50% and the only thing that can be done now is to extract the affected teeth, even if sometimes there are surgical interventions that can improve the pet’s condition. By this stage the pet is probably in a lot of pain and won’t eat too much, so you might want to check things before getting here.
Prevention is the most important step for the welfare of your pet
As you probably realize by now, this is a really serious disease and it is much better to prevent it from becoming problematic rather than face its consequences. Regular oral exams and cleanings will ensure you know of this at an early stage and thus get rid of it before any damage is done.
Just as with us humans, the cats and dogs also need to have their teeth brushed daily and your vet should be able to teach you how to do this in a manner that is as painless as possible for both you and your pet. You need to have patience with this process, but if you do it right then your pets will allow you to do this.
The quality of the food you give your pet will have some impact on their gums and teeth and you can find food that helps scrub their teeth as they chew or have additives that prevent problems, so check those out but always ask your vet about the right diet.
For dogs the chewing of toys and treats will prevent gum disease as long as the toys aren’t too hard. Rubber balls or other toys made of that material will improve their dental health but you will still have to periodically clean the teeth by brushing them.
We mentioned brushing the teeth and this is only effective if you do it every day, otherwise it will be quite painful for the pet and you aren’t doing much good. This should become a habit in the pet grooming routine and if you leave it to the professionals to only do this once a month or so then it won’t work.