Pets experience similar types of dental problems to the ones humans do, and they are more likely to get them. Up to 80% of cats and dogs older than 4 years have some form of dental condition, according to the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA).
February is designated as National Pet Dental Health month in Canada, in an attempt to increase awareness among pet owners about the importance of regular pet dental care.
Here are 6 signs your pet might need dental care, whether it’s a professional cleaning or a more complex treatment:
#1: Foul-Smelling Breath
We’re so accustomed to dogs (and some cats) having bad breath it might not occur to you that it isn’t exactly normal. Pets commonly have this problem because they don’t get the same level of regular tooth brushing and dental cleaning that humans do. If the smell is mild, it means bacteria is present in your pet’s mouth. If it’s markedly worse and smells like rotting eggs, it could be a sign of periodontal disease. Either way, getting your pet to a veterinarian for a professional dental examination and cleaning will make a huge difference to her lifetime oral health.
#2: Problems Chewing Food
If your pet unexpectedly shows signs of difficulty eating, or she appears to lose interest in her food, this could be a symptom of a dental infection or inflammation in the mouth. This condition is usually caused by periodontal disease, which is similar to gingivitis in humans. This can affect a dog or cat’s ability to chew and typically shows up when they try to eat hard foods. So if Fifi suddenly starts refusing that kibble she has always loved, it’s definitely an indication that something is wrong.
#3: Inflamed Gums
Bacterial infections can cause inflammation, bleeding or swelling of the gums, as well as a fair amount of discomfort. If you notice your pet pawing at her mouth, check her gums to see if they appear infected. This can often be resolved by taking her for a thorough dental cleaning, or by removing a particular tooth.
#4: Brown Stains on Teeth
Your pet’s teeth will turn yellow as fast as yours if the tartar gets a chance to build up. This goes together with bad breath and gum infections, but if you take her for cleaning before the accumulation gets too heavy you might be able to prevent infection from occurring. You can also avoid this situation by brushing your pet’s teeth daily and maintaining general good health.
#5: Loose and Broken Teeth
People tend to lose teeth as we get older, but it’s not necessarily the same for pets. If you spot a loose or broken tooth in your cat or dog’s mouth, it could be a sign of a more serious issue. For example, if your pet develops a bacterial presence in her mouth it can eat away the binding that holds the teeth in position. Loose teeth can also be caused by your pet chewing on a hard object. This can open the tooth root and cause bacterial infection, which can spread to the rest of her mouth and eventually her body.
#6: Pawing and Drooling
If your dog begins pawing at his face or drooling, it could be a sign of an abscessed tooth causing problems. Certain teeth are more likely to develop abscesses, which are often a result of trauma to the tooth. This is caused by fighting, chewing hard items or bacteria from diseased gums. Take the pet for a dental examination, and your veterinarian will possibly recommend extracting the tooth and draining the abscess. After this, your furbaby will need antibiotics to clear up any residual infection while he recovers.
By practicing regular pet dental care you 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.