Research indicates that greater than 80% of dogs and greater than 70% of cats over the age of three show some sort of gum disease. When the gums become inflamed it is called gingivitis. This condition in pets will often go unnoticed by their owners because they do not complain of the discomfort they are experiencing. If treated early however, there will be a 100% recovery back to normal.
As is the case in humans, the normal gingiva surrounding each tooth should be light pink in color with a knife-like edge that virtually disappears as it meets the tooth. The mouth is constantly being bombarded physically and chemically by all sorts of agents. If the self cleaning mechanisms can not keep up with removing the debris that accumulates under the gums then there will be an irritation similar to a “splinter” under your nail.
The diagnosis of gingivitis is made when there is a visible thickening of the gum tissues resulting in a color change and even bleeding when touched in the more severe cases. This inflammation can vary widely from one location to another in the same mouth. The most common location for gingivitis is over the canine teeth and over the upper fourth premolars. While the only sign the owner may be aware of is bad breath, if you lift up the lip it will be very obvious in most cases that there is something wrong with the gums.
Treatment consists of removing the irritants (“splinter”) and flushing the toxic debris away from under the gums. This is usually done by performing a mechanical cleaning of the teeth and gums with an ultrasonic device. A large amount of water is used to cool the device that also helps remove the trapped debris from under the gums. Once this has been accomplished the gums will heal very quickly.
There is a special food for dogs and cats called T/D made by the Hills company that can go a long way in keeping gingivitis to a minimum. If you are inclined to brush your pets’ teeth regularly (daily) with a special paste, that would be an even better way to avoid gingivitis. Even if you were to do all these things and more it would still be necessary to have a professional cleaning done approximately once yearly as you would do for yourself.
To find out if your pet is suffering from this condition all you have to do is lift up the lips and look at the gums or have your veterinarian help you decide if you are unsure. Sweeter breath and healthy gums will be your reward.