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Unveiling 15 Indicators of Dental Concerns in Pets

February 1, 2024
February marks Pet Dental Health Month, emphasizing an aspect of pet well-being that’s regrettably sidelined. Dental woes inflict comparable anguish on pets as they do on humans, if not more. Unlike humans, pets can’t articulate their discomfort or book dental appointments, making vigilance paramount. Recognizing signs of dental distress becomes imperative. Within this article, a local Ellicott City, MD veterinarian shares insights into identifying these signs, aiding pet owners in proactive care.   Our cherished pets commonly deal with dental issues, and even the most caring pet owner might miss important signs. Common problems include gum disease, abscesses, overcrowding, and misalignments. Dogs, particularly enthusiastic stick-fetchers like Fido, often experience cracked or broken teeth. Cats, too, are susceptible to tooth resorption and feline stomatitis. Recognizing these issues is vital for responsible and attentive pet caregiving.   Your vet should inspect your pet’s teeth at regular appointments. Stay observant for warning signs between visits.  
  • Plaque/Tartar Accumulation
  The observable buildup of tartar is closely associated, or paw in hand, with gum disease, echoing its human counterpart. It commences with mild gum irritation, termed gingivitis, potentially reversible with attentive care. Regrettably, pets often miss this opportunity for reversal. The progression involves tartar formation around the gumline, leading to infectious pockets and eventual loss of gum tissue and bone.   Grasp that this is not just about aesthetics; gum disease is genuinely perilous. Beyond causing tooth shifting and loss, it’s tied to serious health conditions like heart disease and issues with the liver and kidneys. The infection can spread from pets’ mouths to vital organs through the bloodstream.   Visible brown or yellow gunk on your pet’s teeth might signal the need for a deep cleaning. This procedure removes tartar, promoting gum healing and reattachment. Consult your vet for more information.  
  • Rank Breath
  Despite not having minty-fresh breath, pets’ affectionate nose boops and smooches shouldn’t be unpleasant. Consistent bad breath is a concern, potentially indicating various health issues.  
  • Bleeding Gums
  Bleeding gums in pets, akin to humans, are indicative of gum disease. Despite not observing direct changes on your pet’s gums, other clues may appear. Look for toy or dish smudges and dark fur stains encircling their mouth. These subtle hints may signal underlying dental concerns requiring prompt intervention.  
  • Drooling More Often
  Some dog breeds are naturally predisposed to slobbering more than others. If you have a Bloodhound, Boxer, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Retriever, or Basset Hound, you’re likely familiar with their tendency to drool. However, if your pet, who isn’t typically prone to drooling, starts producing excessive or stringy drool, it may warrant a closer look.  
  • Generally, cats don’t drool, so if you witness Fluffy dribbling, be attentive.
  • Food Falling while Eating
  While pets may not be the most refined eaters, they typically have no trouble getting food into their mouths. However, if your beloved companion is dealing with dental problems, chewing may become uncomfortable or arduous. You might notice them involuntarily dribbling food from the side of their mouth.  
  • Preferring Tender Food/Treats
  Dealing with a sore tooth while chewing is distressing. Hard food only intensifies the issue. You might see Fido or Fluffy favoring softer options and disregarding their dry food. Your pet may also lose enthusiasm for hard treats.  
  • Diminished Enjoyment of Play
Fido’s playful nature frequently includes using his mouth, making dental issues a potential obstacle to his enjoyment of games like Fetch or Tug O War. Likewise, Fluffy might lose interest in batting at a catnip mouse or chasing after the elusive red dot if dental problems affect her enthusiasm for play. Dental health is critical for pets’ enjoyment of their favorite games.
  • Swelling
Apparent swelling is a vital marker. It denotes considerable pain for your pet and suggests the presence of a potentially severe infection. Though all infections carry risks, those near the brain are especially alarming due to their proximity to vital organs. Prompt veterinary care is crucial to manage such serious health conditions.
  • Shrinking from Being Touched
Pay attention if your pet starts avoiding head or face contact out of nowhere. This is particularly concerning if your pet typically enjoys forehead rubs or ear scratches. Any sudden aversion to these interactions may suggest underlying discomfort or pain, requiring prompt veterinary attention.
  • Crabby Attitude
Have you ever dealt with a toothache? It likely didn’t improve your mood. Pain is universally unpleasant. If your furry companion suddenly seems different, retreating to a quiet spot and avoiding family interaction, it could signal discomfort. In severe cases, pets may even growl or snap when their face or mouth is touched. Recognizing these signs promptly allows for addressing potential dental issues and ensuring your pet’s comfort.
  • Oral Pawing or Rubbing
This behavior is frequently seen in cats. You might observe your furry pal pawing at her mouth or face. While it may be a routine grooming behavior for Fluffy, if it seems excessive or abnormal, it could indicate an underlying problem requiring veterinary attention.
  • Raggedy Appearance of Coat (Cats)
Felines are typically skilled at self-grooming, with Fluffy dedicating several hours each day to uphold her soft, clean fur. If your cat is grappling with mouth pain, it may impede this routine. Unwell cats often forsake their regular beauty habits, resembling the human tendency to feel unlike themselves during sickness. Detecting alterations in your cat’s grooming behavior becomes a vital cue to vigilantly monitor and address potential health concerns.
  • Changes in Nutritional Preferences
Another significant consideration to be especially mindful of would be any adjustments or variations in your furry friend’s eating behaviors or routines. As previously mentioned, while a preference for softer food can be indicative, it’s essential to remain observant for additional signs. Your cherished pet may also exhibit variations such as extended meal durations or changes in their appetite.
  • Lowered Appetite Levels
Severe dental pain in pets can result in a complete loss of appetite, risking weight loss and potential malnutrition, both posing significant health risks. Reduced appetite can signal various underlying health issues. Thus, immediate veterinary attention is crucial if your pet shows signs of not eating. Prompt intervention ensures proper management of their dental health and overall well-being, preventing further complications and facilitating a swift recovery process.
  • Sneezing
Dental issues often lead to complications in nasal passages or sinuses, causing abnormal nasal discharge, an unusual occurrence for pets like Fido or Fluffy. Identifying these signs emphasizes the necessity of prompt veterinary evaluation.  
  • More Signs of Dental Ailments
  While separately listing the prevalent warning signs, some are easily visible with the naked eye, including:  
  • Inflammation
  • Visible Abscesses
  • Extra Teeth
  • Missing Teeth
  In case you spot any of these signs, contact your Ellicott City, MD veterinary clinic.   Dental health holds immense significance for pets, yet it’s frequently disregarded. Common dental issues, like tartar buildup, drooling, and bad breath, are often overlooked. However, warning signs such as changes in eating habits, weight loss, and visible swelling should not be ignored. These indicators can signify underlying dental problems that, if left untreated, can lead to severe discomfort and potential health complications for pets. Therefore, it’s crucial for pet owners to remain vigilant and promptly contact their veterinarian upon noticing any of these signs. Early intervention is key to maintaining optimal dental health and overall well-being in pets.   Have any of these signs become apparent in your pet? Don’t hesitate to contact us at Claws N Paws Animal Hospital near Ellicott City, MD; we’re available to help!

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