What You Need to Know about Gum Disease

cat gum disease

Happy New Year! We hope you and your family and friends—furry and otherwise—enjoyed a relaxing holiday break!

As we start a new year, it’s time to shed light on the most common disease occurring in adult dogs and cats, and a problem we see in patients every day at Medical District Veterinary Clinic: gum disease.

With National Dental Health Month coming up in February, we want to educate our clients about how to prevent and treat gum disease.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will exhibit some stage of gum disease (also called periodontal disease) by two years of age. The early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, occurs when harmful bacteria cause the gums to become very red and inflamed. As the disease progresses, plaque forms both on the tooth surface and under the gum line. As bacteria and plaque increase, pets can experience pain, bone loss, and ultimately loose teeth.

How do you spot gum disease in your dog or cat? Unfortunately, this problem typically goes unnoticed and untreated in the earliest stages. Common signs of advanced dental disease include:

  • bad breath
  • red/inflamed gums
  • loose teeth
  • missing teeth,
  • discolored teeth

Prevention is the key. The best way to prevent bacterial buildup in the mouth and periodontal disease is daily tooth brushing. We realize that may not be a very practical option for most of you, since there is often a lack of time or cooperation. Never use toothpaste marketed for people; choose toothpaste formulated for dogs and cats. Other options include dental rinses and dental chews. A list of products proven to help decrease plaque and tartar buildup can be found at http://www.vohc.org/accepted_products.htm.

For pets with developed periodontal disease, ultrasonic cleaning to remove all the calculus and plaque from the tooth surface and under the gum line is needed. We also recommend taking dental radiographs (X-rays) to check for disease near the roots of the teeth. Some dogs and cats seem predisposed to dental problems and need cleanings yearly, while other pets can go longer between cleanings.

When it comes to dental cleanings, the main difference between people and pets is anesthesia. If dogs and cats would hold still with their mouth open for 30 to 60 minutes, we would not need anesthesia to properly clean their teeth. As you know, this is not the case!

Please contact us with any questions you about your pet’s oral health or to schedule an appointment for a dental exam or cleaning.

Remember: February is Dental Health Month, and all dental procedures are 10 percent off for all clients and 15 percent off for students and staff of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Drew Sullivan, DVM, Director
Medical District Veterinary Clinic