Concerned about gingivitis in dogs and cats? Dr. Jan Bellows, a veterinary dental specialist, says on his website (www.dentalvet.com) that some form of periodontal disease occurs in over 85% of dogs and cats over the age of four.
He adds, “Despite a decade of heightened awareness of the importance of veterinary dental care on the part of veterinarians and pet owners alike, periodontal disease persists as the most common infection seen in veterinary practice today.“
A dog or cat begins life with a healthy mouth. A healthy mouth should include pink gums that tightly grip the teeth. They should be firm and not swollen. Over time, plaque begins to form a thin layer across tooth enamel. If left on the teeth with no intervention, plaque will slowly become tartar, a hard, brown, bacteria-laden layer that not only becomes harder to remove but also begins to inflame the surrounding gums. This is how gingivitis in dogs and cats begins.
You will notice that once tartar becomes prevalent on your pet’s teeth, his gums will begin to redden, swell, and bleed if touched. The condition will progressively worsen and increase in pain. Your pet may drool, refuse to eat or have difficulties eating, and produce foul breath. These are all signs of dental decay. Gingivitis is reversible in the early stages before it becomes periodontitis, which is differentiated from gingivitis by bone loss and succeeding tooth loss.
Preventing tooth decay and gingivitis in dogs and cats is as simple as creating and following a home dental care plan. Here are a variety of suggestions for gingivitis prevention:
1. Clean your pet’s mouth. Moisten a small washcloth with warm water and gently rub across all the tooth layers. This will remove the food debris each day. If your pet doesn’t mind, you can also brush with a soft-bristled brush and pet dental toothpaste.
2. Pets cannot floss, so appropriate things to chew on are recommended. There are special dental treats made specifically for this purpose. You should avoid using rawhide bones as they are hard to digest and can be choked on. Raw food believers swear by raw meaty bones of appropriate size. Never give cooked bones of any kind as they splinter when chewed. Always supervise your pet when chewing on treats or bones of any kind.
3. Supplements: Dr. Andrew Jones, veterinarian and author, shares that there are supplements that might prove beneficial for dogs or cats susceptible to gingivitis (http://www.theallineed.com/home/07033181.htm). He suggests lactoferrin added to food. Propolis is another recommendation for gingivitis. He says this natural product of honeybees acts as an antiseptic to soothe inflamed gums.
Tamara Jankoski notes in her web article The Remarkable Benefits of Grapefruit Seed Extract that grapefruit seed extract is a favorite among holistic doctors and has shown remarkable abilities to work as an anti-bacterial. Doctors have found it to work considerably well in a number of areas including gingivitis in dogs and cats and people (http://www.appliedhealth.com/AHS-Journal/Newsletter/The-Remarkable-Benefits-of-Grapefruit-Seed-Extract/).
4. If your pet does not like having its teeth brushed, there are natural products that combine supplements like grapefruit seed extract, propolis, and others into a beneficial spray or gel that can be directly applied to teeth. Even if you brush your pet’s teeth, these sprays or gels are a great addition to your dental care plan.
A home dental care plan for your pet can be easy to create and follow. Consistently done, gingivitis in dogs and cats should never be an experience you share with your best friends.