All You Need to Know About Periodontal Disease in Pets

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Periodontal disease in cats and dogs is treatable and preventable, but it can be really painful for your dog or cat. This disease is an inflammation of a tooth’s support and left untreated can cause severe pain or other internal diseases. 

Most of the time, this disease is caused by bacteria. So, this is why it is very important to pay attention to your pet’s oral hygiene and brush their teeth. In addition, if you notice that your pet has a bad breath you should schedule a vet consultation. 

So, read on for more information about periodontal disease in cats and dogs and find out how can you treat and prevent it!

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as a dental disease in pets, is an infection that affects your pet’s teeth or “disease around the tooth,” says Donnell Hansen, DVM, dipl. DAVDC, who practices at BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Blaine and Eden Prairie, Minnesota. 

This disease occurs over time and is due to bacteria, tartar and cavities that are stored under the gums and affect the tissue that supports the tooth. Yet, not only does this disease affects the gums and teeth, but also the bones.

“Then more debris accumulates in the pockets and areas of recession, where more inflammation happens,” Dr. Hansen said. “It becomes a cycle where more inflammation means more attachment loss; more attachment loss means more inflammation.”

However, it could lead to major complications if left untreated.


One of the most common symptoms is bad breath, also known as halitosis. If you notice that your dog has a stinky breath you should schedule a vet consultation as soon as possible. Also, you should try to brush its teeth regularly. 

“Just like in people, bad breath is not normal,” says Dr. Hansen. “Doggy breath or kitty breath is not normal. So strictly from hanging out with the pet standpoint, if you’re smelling bad breath, it’s likely a hint that we need care.”

Other symptoms include red and irritated gums, tartar on the teeth, discoloration of teeth or large cavities. Healthy gums should be pink in color and firm. 

“In an animal with periodontal disease, the gums are red, inflamed and bleed easily,” said Kimi H. Kan-Rohrer, RDHAP, BSDH, a clinical specialist-dental hygienist at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, University of California, Davis. “You’ll also see a gingival recession, tooth mobility, and the dog or cat dropping food from their mouth during eating. Even though pets hide pain well, severe dental disease in dogs and cats can be very painful and can lead to a change in eating habits and behavior.”

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First of all, you should take your pet to the vet and he or she will tell you the diagnosis following a thorough exam with professional techniques, such as X-ray or dental cleaning. “Anesthesia, full mouth dental radiographs and dental cleaning are necessary to fully evaluate each tooth,” said Dr. Gaddis. 

“Cat and dog gum disease treatment options depend on the severity of the disease,” Dr. Kan-Rohrer says. “But it will include dental charting with probing, and scaling with hand and power instruments to remove plaque and calculus.”

Unfortunately, in some cases, teeth must be extracted. 


If you want to prevent periodontal disease in your pet you have to be committed to annual oral exams at your vet clinic and brush your pet’s teeth as often as possible. “With periodontal disease, teamwork makes the dream work,” Dr. Hansen says. “Our two best resources to battle periodontal disease are at-home daily brushing and professional cleanings at the veterinarian.”

“Yes, I know it can be impractical, I know you’ll feel kind of silly, but if our goal really is to prevent periodontal disease, just like in people, we use a brush every day, and so your pet should, too,” Dr. Hansen adds.

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