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Dental Diseases in Pets

See Dental Supplements for Dogs and Cats.

Keeping your pet's mouth healthy and clean are important steps in preventing many dental problems and diseases in dogs and cats. While brushing and regular cleanings are your first line of defense against tooth decay, gingivitis, mouth sores, plaque, bad breath and gum disease, many times additional intervention is needed.

Gumz-n-Teeth was formulated to help prevent gingivitis in dogs and cats and contains Calcium Fluoride for maintaining the health and integrity of the teeth. It also contains Silica which is frequently prescribed for gum disease (including gum boils and mouth abscess), mouth sores and ulcers and chronic mucous infections.

Perio-Support helps to control plaque formation and reduce the bacteria that often causes "dog breath."

If your dog or cat is prone to gum diseases and chronic oral infections, ask your vet whether Immugen from Thorne Research would be beneficial. Immugen contains CoQ10 and is loaded with other antioxidants and vitamins to strengthen canine and feline gum tissue and provide support to the immune system. A weakened immune system makes it hard for dogs and cats to fight gingivitis and stomatitis.

For bad breath, try Pleasant Breath Plus tablets from NaturVet. Containing natural cleansers and deoderizers, Pleasant Breath tablets are also helpful in reducing occasional gas and helps to stop dogs from eating stools.

Read on to learn more about dental diseases in pets. 

Good Dental Health Can Prolong Your Pet's Life

It's vital to keep a close check on your dog or cat's dental health because some experts believe proper care in this area can prolong a pet's life by as much as 20%. So, by careful monitoring at home and arranging veterinary examinations at regular intervals, you can play an active role in extending your years together.

Cats and dogs are particularly prone to tooth and gum diseases. It's estimated that nearly half the cat population over the age of 3 has one kind of dental disorder or another - 85% of felines in this category may suffer from bad gums alone. As many as 80% of dogs aged 1 to 3 are thought to have signs of periodontal disease that requires treatment to areas around the tooth.

In addition to treating the tooth area, a holistic practitioner will likely view your pet's periodontal disease as a symptom of a more subtle health imbalance. Many times, dental problems are indications of immune disorders.  The focus of treatment will be to build overall health, rather than just concentrating on the immediate problem.

Symptoms of Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats

The best way to become familiar with your cat or dog's mouth is get up close and personal. Normal teeth in both cats and dogs should be white or just a little yellow, with gums light pink and smooth, except those in breeds with pigmented gums, such as Chows. Gums should definitely NOT be red, swollen or cobblestone in appearance.

Your sense of smell is one of the key ways of discovering periodontal disease, which is the most common infectious (bacteria-caused) disease in cats and dogs. All pets have bad breath to some degree. But those with periodontal disease emit particularly disagreeable odors from their mouth, caused by bacteria and their toxins destroying their gums and teeth.

Gum disease begins when bacteria in the form of plaque eats away at the supportive gum tissue of the teeth. When plaque is not removed either by brushing, cleaning or an animal eating the right food, the mineral salts in saliva form hard crusts called calculus or tartar over the plaque. Mild plaque can be seen as a filmy, yellowish build-up at the base of the teeth. Heavy tarter is thick and rock-hard. It may be brown, yellow or even greenish in tint and will break off in chunks when pried loose with your thumbnail.

The formation of tartar irritates gum tissue, causing redness and then swelling, which lead to gingivitis. If neglected, gingivitis turns into periodontitis. This is a much more serious condition and can lead to progressive infection, inflammation and loss of the tiny ligaments that bind the gums to the teeth, as well as bone recession and loose teeth.

Dental problems are troublesome in their own right, but they often are manifestations of other serious problems such as immune disorders or even heart disease.

Links to Immune Disorders and Cardiovascular Diseases

Chronic oral infections are not confined to the mouth because there is a risk of bacteria being swallowed and then spreading to other parts and organs of the body. The immune system is also subjected to a constant burden and over several years, and even months, these toxins can cause liver, kidney, lung and gastrointestinal disease or organ failure.

Lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis (LPS) is thought to be an autoimmune disease of the gums and lining of the mouth and throat. Although the symptoms may appear the same, do not mistake this disease with chronic gingivitis which is almost always due to tartar build-up.

The first thing to understand about LPS is that this disease can be a secondary symptom of a greater underlying viral infection such as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline Leukemia, Feline Herpes (aka Rhinotracheitis) or Calicivirus, or it may be an immune response gone awry. Current theories are that the cat develops an allergy to tartar. Always have your cat tested for FeLV and FIV if faced with this condition.

Dental disease has also been linked to heart conditions. Recent studies have shown that bacteria is often found on the abnormal heart valves of animals with heart disease. These bacteria were identical to that cultured from infected teeth and gums. It is no coincidence that many animals with heart disease also suffer from periodontal problems. If neglected, periodontal disease can cause a heart infection called bacterial endocarditis, which is life-threatening as well as difficult and expensive to treat. 

When your pet is suffering from dental problems, ask your vet whether antioxidants and other immune strengthening vitamins will help your pet.   

Maintain a Healthy Mouth in your Pet

There's no substitute for brushing. It's the most important thing you can do for your pet's dental health and the process is even more critical if the animal already has gum disease. Talk to your veterinarian about proper brushing techniques.

Diet is also crucial to maintain good dental health. Remove items that tend to stick to teech. Natural, raw food diets can be helpful to dogs. Encourage recreational chewing by your dog.

Cats, on the other hand, often don't receive food that's good for their dental health. In the process of eating prey in the wild, cats devoured fur, hair and tough elastic tissue which had a natural brushing effect on their teeth. But today's domesticated cat doesn't eat food with such "built-in" toothbrushes. Often the food is soft and they need something harder that offers abrasiveness without damaging gum tissue. Kibble has a consistency that offers a brushing benefit before it is mashed into mush. While not a treatment for periodontal disease, it can help as part of a prevention strategy.

If your pet is prone to dental problems, ask your veterinarian about an immune support product to help battle against bacteria or viral infections.

Conventional Treatments

The form of treatment depends upon the severity of the disease. Most pets who have early periodontal disease can be treated by their veterinarian with an ultrasonic scaling and antibiotics. More severe disease often requires advanced dental procedures such as root canals, extractions or gum surgery best performed by referral to a specialist. Oral radiographs ( X-rays) can detect disease under the gums that would normally go undetected in more severe cases.

Natural Treatments for Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats

The whole health of a pet, rather than just the symptoms of a specific disease, is the foundation of any holistic health-care program.

Principal natural treatments for dental care involve nutritional support. The fat soluble antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, which combats the damaging by-products of oxidization in the body called free radicals, is most commonly recommended for pets with heart disease. Anecdotal evidence suggest that it also helps with gingivitis.

CoQ10 may also help periodontal disease by reducing the size and improving the health of periodontal pockets in the gums, as well as decreasing inflammation, redness, bleeding, pain and diabetes.

Other antioxidant supplements, especially the vitamins A, B complex, C and E with zinc and manganese will strengthen periodontal tissue.
Vitamin E can be squeezed from a capsule directly onto abrasions or small sores, while zinc helps to keep oral tissue healthy. Probiotics and digestive enzymes can be helpful to dogs with chronic mouth trouble, though it may take a month or two to see any improvements.