What to Look for When Checking Your Pet’s Teeth and Gums
Cartoons often refer to a cat’s bad breath. Their breath may be used as a lethal weapon or cause a person to recoil in horror. While a feline’s normal breath may not be as sweet as ours after brushing our teeth and using a mouthwash, neither should the cat’s breath be a lethal weapon. The same applies to your dog’s breath.
Bad breath is usually a sign that something is wrong. There may be other symptoms as well, like swollen gums, splotchy tongue, or excessive drooling; all of which can be indicators of even more serious health concerns. Taking care of your pet’s mouth is just as important as caring for your own.
Make it a Habit to Look
Check your pet’s mouth on a regular basis. It’s easy to do when you brush, comb, or groom your pet. Brush your pet, check toenails, clean ears, look at the eyes, and then check the teeth and gums. With regular inspections you will quickly learn what is normal and will be able to spot changes or potential problems.
Be gentle when opening your pet’s mouth. Small and toy breed dogs and cats can be severely hurt if you’re too rough. If your pet isn’t used to all this attention on their mouth, try looking at just one part of the mouth for a few seconds. Then give your pet a break and check a different part of the mouth later or the next day. Be gentle and patient.
Your pet’s gums should be a medium pink. Gums that are light pink or white could signify a significant health problem and you should call the veterinarian right away. Dark pink or red gums, especially around the base of the teeth, are symptoms of gingivitis (gum disease). Your veterinarian can help with this issue as well.
Look around inside the mouth for any wounds, sores, lumps, or other anything else unusual. Don’t forget to take a look at the tongue, too.
Cats can be susceptible to a few diseases of the mouth. Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLs) is one of those. This disease causes the degeneration of the teeth and is extremely painful. If you see anything unusual at the gumline around one or more teeth call your veterinarian right away.
While you are taking a look at your pet’s mouth, take a sniff. Although your pet’s mouth won’t be minty fresh, there shouldn’t be an offensive odor, either. Again, as with looking at the mouth on a regular basis, if you sniff often you will catch any changes in your pet’s breath.
Check Out Those Pearly Whites
Puppies and kittens have bright, pearly white teeth. Ideally, with tooth care from you and their veterinarian, those teeth can remain white.
When you check out your pet’s mouth, make sure you check the teeth. Ideally, they are white although as pets grow older a bit of brown tartar may accumulate at the base of the teeth. When this builds up, the gums will become darker pink or red as the tartar causes inflammation.
Talk to your veterinarian about this. If you aren’t brushing or cleaning your pet’s teeth your veterinarian can show you how. If there is a significant amount of tartar in most cases your veterinarian will need to do a dental cleaning. Don’t procrastinate, though, as tooth loss is common in advanced cases.
As you look at the teeth, look for broken or cracked teeth. These are as common in cats but dog’s can break teeth when chewing on hard toys, bones, sticks, or even stones. Teeth can even be broken in play, especially if your dog plays hard.
A broken tooth will be obvious as a piece of the tooth will be missing. A cracked tooth, though, usually isn’t as obvious.
Other Signs of a Problem
Besides the visual changes you might find in your pet’s mouth, one of the first signs of a dental problem is a change in your pet’s eating habits. Perhaps your cat will eat her canned food but ignore the dry kibbles. Maybe your dog won’t chew on his favorite hard toy.
Drooling is also a common symptom that something is wrong. Both dogs and cats can drool more than normal when they have dental problems.
Some pets, especially dogs, will rub their face on the ground or carpet. They may also paw at their mouth. Both dogs and cats can even develop a discharge from one or both eyes, or a nasal discharge.
In any case, no matter what signs or symptoms you see, don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian for help. Dental disease is painful, can lead to tooth loss, and can cause additional health problems for your pet.