Like humans, dogs and cats are susceptible to dental diseases caused by bacteria in the mouth. Gingivitis is the most common of the dental diseases. In animals with gingivitis, bacterial growth causes inflammation of the gums. The best way to prevent gingivitis is to follow a home oral hygiene regimen.
When bacteria and food particles build up on the teeth the resulting substance is known as plaque. If not brushed away, plaque will accumulate along the gum line. Plaque buildup irritates the gums and causes inflammation. This condition is called gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated, periodontitis can result.
Symptoms of gingivitis include gums that are swollen and bleed easily. The gums may change in color from their normal pink, to red or even purple. The animal may develop bad breath as well.
Without treatment the bacterial infection can spread into the ligaments and bone surrounding the teeth. This is known as periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause teeth to fall out as the structures that hold them in are eaten away by the bacteria. Gingivitis is reversible; periodontitis is not, so it is important that an animal receives treatment for gingivitis before it develops into the more serious condition.
The effects of gingivitis can usually be reversed with a professional teeth cleaning. Your veterinarian will clean the teeth, gums and area below the gum line, in much the same way that your dentist would clean your teeth. After they have been cleaned, your veterinarian may be able to seal the teeth to prevent further damage.
Most animals respond well to treatment. Some dogs and cats may have persistent problems with gingivitis if they also suffer from immune system problems, diabetes or certain infections. A home oral health care regimen will help to prevent plaque from building up again. This may include special treats or chew toys or the use of toothbrushes designed for pets.