Pets experience dental problems just like people do. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that 80% of dogs and cats older than 4 years have moderate to severe dental disease. It doesn’t have to be that way, though!

Each year, the AVMA designates February as National Pet Dental Health Month in an effort to raise awareness among pet parents about the importance of regular pet dental care and cleaning, all year round.

Check to see if your dog or cat shows any of these seven signs. If so, she may need dental treatment.

#1: Bad Breath

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not “normal” for your pet to have bad breath. Bad breath may be common in pets, but that’s typically because the pet doesn’t get regular tooth brushing and dental cleaning. Bad breath is the most frequent sign of looming dental problems, and breath that smells like rotten eggs it could indicate the presence of periodontal disease. Even slightly bad breath means bacteria are trapped in the pet’s mouth. A professional dental cleaning and examination can make the world of difference to your pet’s lifetime dental health!

#2: Eating Difficulties

If you see your dog or cat having difficulty chewing her food or she suddenly loses interest and appetite, she might need pet dental care urgently. Loss of interest in food can indicate oral infection or inflammation that could be caused by pet gum disease or gingivitis in dogs or cats. Refusing hard foods in particular could be a sign that she’s finding it hard to chew.

#3: Problem Gums

Inflamed, swollen or bleeding gums are often a symptom of a bacterial infection. The inflammation can cause significant pain and discomfort which can often be reversed by a professional dental cleaning or removing a specific problem tooth.

#4: Stained Teeth

Yellow and brown stains on pet’s back teeth and around the gum line are signs of tartar build-up. These go hand-in-hand with bad breath and bacterial infections and can usually be removed by a professional cleaning before they become problematic. Of course, brushing your pet’s teeth daily can prevent this from happening in the first place, helping maintain your pet’s general good health.

#5: Loose and Broken Teeth

Vet examining a cat's teeth-pet dental-healthYou might think it’s normal for your cat or dog to lose teeth as she gets older, but loose and broken teeth are often signs of a more serious pet dental care issue. If bacteria have eaten away the binding  that holds the tooth in place, an infection probably exists or is in the process of developing. (See Periodontal Disease.) A loose tooth can also be caused by chewing on something too hard, which might open the root of the tooth and result in infection. Any oral bacterial infection can spread to the rest of your pet’s mouth, and eventually to the rest of her body.

#6: Tumors on Gums

Tumors or growths on your pet’s gums could be benign or malignant, and the only way to find out is to have her examined by a veterinarian without delay. If a tumor is found to be malignant, the treatment might require the removal of some of her teeth and/or a section of her jawbone. Pet parents who brush their dog’s or cat’s teeth daily are more likely to notice tumors in early stages, which is an additional reason to practice good pet dental care.

#7: Pawing and Drooling

If your dog begins drooling excessively or pawing at her face, she could have a dental abscess that is causing pain and discomfort. The carnassial tooth or fourth upper premolar tooth (the “canine” tooth) is particularly prone to developing abscesses, usually as a result of:

  • Trauma to the tooth
  • Fighting
  • Chewing hard items
  • Bacteria from periodontal disease

Your veterinarian will usually remove the affected tooth and drain the abscess. Your pet might need antibiotics to help clear up the infection during the recovery process.

Practicing regular pet dental care can prevent many of these problems. If your pet develops signs of dental disease, the sooner she receives treatment, the more likely she is to heal completely.

How Much Do You Know About Pet Dental Health, Now?

Try the AVMA dental health quiz and see how up to date you are about pet dental health.

Pet Dental Care at Harmony Animal Hospital

You will find our page on Veterinary Dental Services very informative. We discuss “Complete Oral Health and Treatment” or COHAT, which is a professional cleaning under anesthesia .

Access our Dental Care Overview at Harmony video and white paper. Find out how to keep your pet happy, healthy and free from dental pain year-round.

Click the link here to contact us.