SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
Usually pets will develop a substantial amount of plaque and dental calculus (tartar) by 3 years of age and will be ready for their first dental. Some dogs or cats can develop advanced dental disease earlier in life, while others may not show symptoms until later in life. This will be determined by their diet, dental care, chewing habits and genetics.
Dental disease is the most common clinical disease found in a veterinarian’s office – and it can be easily prevented. It can sometimes be difficult for owners to determine whether or not their pet has dental disease. Most animals are very good at hiding any signs of pain until it has become a serious problem.
The following symptoms are good indicators of underlying periodontal disease:
1. A bad odor. If your pet likes to get up close and personal, and you prefer that they keep a healthy distance due to their particularly stinky breath, then they likely have at least a mild form of dental disease.
However, if the smell suddenly changes to an even more foul smell, it is possible that your pet’s oral disease has advanced to another stage. A very strong or unusual smell from the mouth can be from an abscess or other serious condition. Any sudden new smells must be addressed by your vet immediately to determine the cause.
2. Red, inflamed or bleeding gums. Healthy gums should be light pink, smooth and not painful when pressing into the gums with your finger. Gums that are dark pink, red, inflamed, bleeding, or painful when pressing into them, are considered unhealthy tissue.
3. Difficulty eating. It must be emphasized that most pets will still eat if their teeth hurt!!! Animals are amazing in that they have survival mechanisms which allow them to eat, regardless of how much pain they are in. A pet can have a cracked tooth, or have their teeth literally falling out, and will still continue to eat without seeming like he is in pain.
With that being said, some pets do show signs of trouble eating. They may chew on one side of their mouth (because the other side is painful), food may fall out of their mouth while they eat, and they might not be as excited about eating or may refuse to eat at all.
4. Discharge from the nose. It may seem odd, but discharge from the nose can actually indicate a problem with your pet’s mouth! This is because the teeth and nasal passages are separated by a small amount of bone.
If the disease process from dental calculus and gingivitis causes any damage to that bone, it can create a hole that goes directly from the tooth’s base to the nasal passages. This hole is called a fistula, or an oral-nasal fistula.
Blood, pus or other discharge from the nose could mean that a fistula has formed. This is a very serious condition that should be evaluated by your veterinarian immediately.
5. Pawing at the mouth or excessive drooling. If your pet is pawing at his mouth excessively or more than usual, then it may be uncomfortable or painful due to a periodontal condition. Excessive drooling or saliva staining (usually brownish or pink in color) on the hair around the lips could be a sign that your pet is having teeth issues.