Oral Health in Pets
Dogs have 28 temporary teeth and 42 permanent teeth. Cats have 26 temporary teeth and 30 permanent teeth. Like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to oral health problems. The organization, Pet Dental, estimates 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have signs of oral health problems by age three.
The most common oral health problem in dogs and cats is periodontal (gum) disease. As with people, it occurs when food, saliva and bacteria in food combine to form a sticky film on teeth, called plaque. The bacteria feed off the plaque, which eventually turns into hardened tartar. The gums become inflamed (gingivitis), red and swollen, and may bleed easily. Eventually, the inflammation spreads deeper, attacking the ligaments that hold the tooth, destroying bone and causing the affected teeth to loosen and fall out.
Periodontal disease affects more than tooth loss. Researchers have found that pets with severe periodontal disease are at higher risk for infection/damage of major organs, like the heart, kidneys and liver.
Preventing Oral Health Problems in Pets
Manuel Sanchez, D.V.M., Veterinarian with Freeport Veterinary Medical Center in Freeport, TX, says pets with bleeding gums, tooth or mouth pain, or loose teeth should be seen by a veterinarian. Treatment is possible, but time consuming and expensive. Thus, it’s best to prevent oral health problems in pets.
Sanchez says all pets should have an oral health exam as part of their routine care. He also recommends brushing a pet’s teeth. It’s best to introduce a pet to tooth brushing as a puppy or kitten to get them used to the routine. It may help to start by placing a finger in meat-flavored broth and then wiping the animal’s teeth with the finger. Once the pet becomes accustomed to having something touching the teeth, try using a pet toothbrush and toothpaste (do not use human oral healthcare products for an animal).
In addition to brushing, Sanchez recommends giving your pet chews formulated to improve or maintain dental health. Look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance. Only products that meet standards for plaque and tartar control are allowed to display the seal. Researchers also report that pets fed dry food tend to have less gum disease than those fed only a soft food diet.
AUDIENCE INQUIRYFor general information on oral health for pets:
American Animal Hospital Association, http://www.healthypet.com
American Veterinary Dental Council, http://www.avdc.org
Pet Dental Health Campaign, http://www.petdental.com
Veterinary Oral Health Council, http://www.vohc.org/perio.htm
BIBLIOGRAPHYBrown, W., and P. McGenity, “Effective Periodontal Disease Control Using Dental Hygiene Chews,” Journal of Veterinary Dentistry, March 2005, Vol. 22, No. 1, pp. 16-19.
Elliott, David, et al., “Aggregative Behavior of Bacteria Isolated from Canine Dental Plaque,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, August 2006, Vol. 72, No. 8, pp. 5211-5217.
Gawor, Jerzy, et al., “Influence of Diet on Oral Health in Cats and Dogs,” Journal of Nutrition, July 2006, Vol. 136, No. 7, Suppl., pp. 2021S-2023S.
Glickman, L., et al., “Evaluation of the Risk of Endocarditis and other Cardiovascular Events on the Basis of the Severity of Periodontal Disease in Dogs,” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, February 15 2009, Vol. 234, No. 4, pp. 486-494.
Gorrel, Cecilia, “Periodontal Disease and Diet in Domestic Pets,” Journal of Nutrition, December 1998, Vol. 128, No. 12, Suppl., pp. 2712S-2714S.