Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

Why my cat or dog has bad breath?

Periodontal disease is a common dental condition that affects cats and dogs of all ages. It is characterized by inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, and systemic health issues. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for periodontal disease is crucial for maintaining the oral health and overall well-being of our furry companions.

Causes of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease in cats and dogs typically begins with the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, saliva, and food particles that forms on the teeth. If not removed through regular brushing or professional dental cleanings, plaque can harden into tartar (dental calculus), which provides a breeding ground for bacteria. Over time, the bacteria in plaque and tartar can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and damage to the surrounding tissues, leading to periodontal disease.

Several factors can contribute to the development of periodontal disease in cats and dogs, including:

  1. Poor Dental Hygiene: Lack of regular brushing and dental care can allow plaque and tartar to accumulate on the teeth, increasing the risk of periodontal disease.
  2. Diet: A diet high in carbohydrates or sticky foods can contribute to plaque formation and dental decay.
  3. Genetics: Some animals may be predisposed to developing periodontal disease due to genetic factors.
  4. Age: Older pets are more prone to periodontal disease, as years of plaque accumulation can take their toll on dental health.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

The signs of periodontal disease in cats and dogs can be subtle and may go unnoticed by pet owners until the disease has progressed. Common symptoms include:

  1. Bad Breath (Halitosis): Foul-smelling breath is often one of the first signs of periodontal disease and is caused by the presence of bacteria in the mouth.
  2. Gingivitis: Inflammation and redness of the gums may be visible, especially along the gumline.
  3. Dental Calculus: Yellow or brown tartar deposits may accumulate on the teeth, particularly near the gumline.
  4. Gum Recession: As periodontal disease progresses, the gums may recede, exposing the roots of the teeth.
  5. Loose or Missing Teeth: Advanced periodontal disease can cause tooth mobility or loss due to damage to the supporting structures.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing periodontal disease in cats and dogs typically requires a thorough dental examination performed by a veterinarian. This may involve sedation or anesthesia to allow for a comprehensive assessment of the teeth and gums.

Treatment for periodontal disease may include:

  1. Professional Dental Cleaning: Scaling and polishing the teeth to remove plaque and tartar buildup is a crucial step in managing periodontal disease.
  2. Tooth Extraction: Severely affected teeth may need to be extracted to prevent further damage to surrounding tissues.
  3. Antibiotics: In cases of advanced periodontal disease with bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to help control the infection.
  4. Home Dental Care: Regular tooth brushing, dental chews, and specialized dental diets can help prevent plaque buildup and maintain oral health between professional cleanings.


Preventing periodontal disease in cats and dogs involves proactive dental care and regular veterinary check-ups. Pet owners can take the following steps to help maintain their pet’s oral health:

  1. Brushing: Daily tooth brushing with a pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrush can help remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup.
  2. Dental Treats and Toys: Providing dental treats and toys designed to promote chewing and reduce plaque can help support oral hygiene.
  3. Regular Veterinary Examinations: Annual or biannual dental check-ups with a veterinarian are essential for early detection and treatment of periodontal disease.
  4. Professional Dental Cleanings: Regular professional dental cleanings under anesthesia are recommended to remove plaque and tartar from hard-to-reach areas.

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Periodontal disease is a common and preventable condition that can have serious consequences for the oral health and overall well-being of cats and dogs. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for periodontal disease, pet owners can take proactive steps to maintain their pet’s dental health and quality of life. Regular dental care, both at home and with the guidance of a veterinarian, is key to preventing and managing periodontal disease in our furry companions.

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