Every day at work, I look in a lot of pets’ mouths. I can tell you that I see a lot of dental problems. As a matter of a fact, the second most common health concern of dogs and cats in Morinville is a problem with their teeth. The most common concern is being overweight. This level of concern is not a surprise to owners of dogs in the Edmonton area (or any city in Canada). Unfortunately, there are a lot of cat owners who are quite surprised to find out that their cat has a problem with their teeth. The main reason for this is that cats and dogs are so different when it comes to what dental problems look like.
The most obvious is the smell. Dogs that have bad teeth usually have breath that would knock you down. Teeth that are abscessed are draining pus, and pus is a liquid that smells. Obviously, the pus rinses over the teeth, gums and tongue. Even if you cannot see the bad tooth, you can smell it. Dogs get more teeth that abscess than cats do. On top of that, dogs are more likely to pant than cats; this fills the air with their rotten breath. Anyone who has had a big dog with a rotten tooth spending time in a room with their family cannot miss the foul stink. It gets even worse if your dog licks you-now you stink too! Cats, on the other hand, do not have teeth that abscess so easily. They also rarely pant, nor do they lick their owners. That does not mean that cats with bad teeth do not have bad breath, it is just harder to notice.
Another difference is the gum reaction. Cats with gum disease tend to have a line of bright red gums that seems to dissolve into the teeth. Dogs are more likely to have gums that swell up and pull away from the teeth. That is one of the reasons that dogs with dental disease often have teeth that wiggle and fall out.
The teeth are different too. Dogs will have their teeth get infected roots. This is what makes a tooth fall out. It is more common for cats to get cavities along the gum line that cause the tooth to fracture along the gum line, and only lose a part of the tooth, and leave a root fragment under the gum.
Both dogs and cats can have crowded, misplaced teeth. That is more a factor of their breed than being a dog or cat. A shih tzu dog is just as likely to have crowded teeth as a persian cat. Any tooth that is out of place is more at risk for dental problems. That is why Morinville Vet Clinic sees so many shih tzus and persians for dental cleaning.
What is the same in dogs and cats with dental problems is that they do not often lose their appetite. Both animals just learn to gulp down their food without chewing, so they eat just as much as before. The best way to find out if your pet has a dental problem is to either look in their mouth or bring them to the vet clinic for an exam. Like many health concerns, early detection leads to easier treatment.
Written by Dr. Michael High