Harris County Veterinary Medical Foundation

Periodontal Disease

What is the Most Frequently Diagnosed Disease in Dogs and Cats?

While studies show that periodontal disease is the most frequently diagnosed disease in pets, it is probably the most neglected disease because of a lack of emphasis on oral hygiene in pets.  Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.  These supporting tissues are the gingiva or gum and the ligament, which attaches the tooth to the bony socket.  Since periodontal disease is an infection, it causes some obvious signs and symptoms which can be identified by many pet owners.  Bad breath, red or swollen gums, or bleeding in the mouth are some of the more obvious signs of periodontal disease.  Some owners may notice yellow-brown deposits on the teeth, which is evidence of plaque or tartar on the crown surface. Other less obvious symptoms of periodontal disease include loss of appetite, weight loss, reluctance to play with toys, inactivity, or pain around the muzzle or mouth.  If your pet has any signs or symptoms of periodontal disease, you should consult your veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.

Most veterinary hospitals recommend thorough teeth cleaning, which is done by veterinarians and veterinary technicians while your pet is anesthetized.  Usual treatment involves removing calculus above and below the gum line, curetting the gum tissue, root planing, polishing, fluoride treatment, tooth extractions, and antibiotics (if needed).  Frequent examinations of the teeth and gingiva by your veterinarian should help detect early signs of disease.  Your pet's teeth should be cleaned yearly, however, some more advanced periodontal cases require more frequent cleaning. Home care, such as tooth brushing or dental chews, is a very effective means to keep teeth healthy in between professional cleanings.  Oral rinses containing zinc or chlorhexidine solutions help control plaque, while hard diets and treats can control calculus.  Ask your veterinarian to evaluate your pet's teeth and recommend preventative dental care.