How dirty teeth affect your pet’s whole body

SAN DIEGO – Periodontal inflammation is the most common disease affecting small animals. Periodontal tissue includes all the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth in your pets mouth. Calculus and inflammation does not just lead to bad breath though, it can cause many problems with your pets health and well being.

When tartar and calculus build up on the teeth of our pets it can cause inflammation of the tissue holding the teeth in place but it can also affect the bone holding the teeth as well. The bacteria can then invade into the lymphatic system and the blood stream and end up causing sites of infection in organs such as the heart, bladder and kidneys, liver and gastrointestinal tract.

Just like in people after a dental cleaning within 20 minutes afterwards a glycoprotein layer (material made up of sugar and protein) attaches to the exposed crown of each tooth. Within 6 hours bacteria from the mouth colonize or start to live on this glycoprotein layer, this combination is known as plaque. In some patients this plaque irritates the gingiva and enables anaerobic bacteria to survive in the gingival pockets.

These bacteria then produce by products that stimulate the host’s immune response to release chemicals that over time weaken and destroy the tooth’s support structure. These same chemicals also enable the bacteria to invade into deeper tissues and then move systemically or throughout the body.

Many variables influence why some animals develop disease and others do not. Certain conditions or diseases can predispose a dog or cat to periodontal disease, these include diabetes, hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormone levels, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushings disease), FIV or FELV in cats and autoimmune conditions like pemphigus or lupus.

Toy breeds are more prone to developing periodontal disease due to their size and longevity but genetics can also play a factor. Breeds that have more periodontal disease include greyhounds, schnauzers, Maltese dogs, Shelties and Abyssinian cats.

Getting professional cleanings are only one aspect of good dental hygiene for our pets. At home care is important. Next time you are in with your pet to see your family veterinarian don’t forget to ask them to show you what products they carry to help with home dental care and demonstrate how to brush your pets teeth.

Categories: Pet Health Tips from the Helen Woodward Animal Center