Gum disease is the most common health condition for dogs and cats in Jacksonville. Alarmingly, most dogs and cats over the age of three show signs of gum disease. This progressive disease is notoriously difficult for a pet owner to spot, as most symptoms occur below the gum line and in the bloodstream. Gum disease can have a range of destructive effects on your pet’s health and comfort. And fortunately for you – it’s entirely treatable! Helping you do exactly that is why we wrote this article. In the paragraphs that follow, you will learn about the fundamentals of periodontal disease, along with exactly how it affects your pet. You will also learn about what symptoms you can look out for, and the steps that you can take today to keep your pet safe from periodontal disease!


The Fundamentals

When your dog or cat eats, a small amount of food turns into plaque on the surface of their teeth (very similar to humans). If this plaque is not quickly brushed away, it will begin to harden into calculus. This is where the problems begin, as the calculus begins to spread below your pet’s gum line. The structures under the gumline are subject to attack and deterioration, ultimately leading to an infection of the jawbone.


The Effects

The toxins begin to erode the tissue and structures that support your pet’s teeth. Your dog or cat’s immune system will be triggered to a foreign invader, and will attempt to combat it with white blood cells. Unfortunately, this creates a vicious cycle, as the white blood cells will release chemicals that further damage the tissue. The eventual result is a loss of gum tissue and bone. Sadly, this is very uncomfortable for your pet. And it can go on to cause tooth loss or even jaw fractures.

An even potentially more serious long-term repercussion occurs when the toxins enter your pet’s bloodstream. Here, they are circulated to your dog or cat’s vital organs, such as their heart, liver and kidneys. Over time, this can have devastating effects. This is why pets with periodontal disease have higher incidences of heart, liver and kidney disease.


What symptoms should I look for?

  • Bad Breath. Halitosis is often laughed at, but it’s usually the first symptom of periodontal disease. Halitosis is usually caused by an underlying medical condition – it’s not a healthy sign.
  • Swollen, inflamed, or bleeding gums. This can be tricky to spot, so make sure to pay close attention to anywhere your dog chews, eats, or drinks (such as toys, food bowls, and water dishes).
  • “One-sided chewing.” If you notice that your pet prefers to chew with one side of their mouth, it’s a sign that they are trying to avoid the pain of chewing on the other side.
  • Avoiding hard toys and food. If your pet’s tooth supports have been damaged, it will be difficult for them to chew harder foods.
  • Pawing at the mouth or face. This is an instinctive reaction to pain for pets, and is a tell-tale sign there is something wrong.


What to do

The best step for you to take right now is to call us at (904) 757-4254 and schedule a dental assessment for your dog or cat. This type of examination should be done at least once a year. During your pet’s examination, we will look for any signs of periodontal disease, and will be able to tell you if your pet would benefit from a cleaning and polishing procedure, or if at-home care is suitable for the time being.


Cleaning & Polishing

During this procedure, we remove the plaque and calculus from your pet’s tooth. And importantly, this includes the calculus that has formed under their gum line, which is what causes the growth of the harmful bacteria. As with any other progressive disease, periodontal is easiest and least expensive to treat the earlier you catch it. It is difficult to fully reverse in its later stages, but almost every pet will see immediate and substantial benefit in their health and pain management from a professional cleaning. Not only does it reduce their (silent) pain – it can add years to their lives by your side!


At-Home Care

Care administered at home is best demonstrated by your veterinary team. Common attempts at brushing pets teeth usually end in failure and/or frustration. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to clean your buddy’s teeth as you watch the evening news!

When brushing your pet’s teeth, make sure to use toothpaste that is made specifically for dogs or cats. Human toothpaste is often toxic to pets. If you can, brush your pet’s teeth once a day. The most important thing, though, is to find a routine you can stick to. If your pet hasn’t ever had their teeth brushed before, you’ll want to work to condition them to allow you to do it. Begin by finding a wet treat that you can coat your finger with. Allow your pet to sniff and lick it, and then gently rub it on a couple teeth. Do this for a couple days, and then progress by putting the treat on a pet specific toothbrush, gently rubbing their teeth with it in the same way. After a couple days of this, your pet should be able to tolerate the brushing with your pet-specific toothpaste. Brush the outside of their teeth at a 45-degree angle. Move back and forth on each tooth a couple times, and make sure to offer them plenty of praise while you’re doing it for being so good and helping you to keep them healthy!

We are passionate about this topic, because we know what a difference it makes in the lives of pets and their owners. If you have any questions, or need us for anything at all, please call us. We are always here for you.