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Identifying 15 Clear Signs of Dental Problems in Pets

February 1 2024

February recognizes Pet Dental Health Month, emphasizing a pivotal yet frequently disregarded component of pet care. Dental ailments can inflict considerable distress on pets, sometimes surpassing human experiences. Lamentably, pets lack the ability to vocalize their dental concerns or schedule dental appointments autonomously. Hence, it’s imperative for pet owners to maintain vigilance and discern any signs of dental distress. This article showcases insights from a local Crown Point, IN veterinarian, furnishing pet owners with valuable guidance on identifying and addressing dental issues in their pets.

Dental issues are a common challenge for our four-legged friends, and even the most caring pet owner might overlook important signs. Common problems include gum disease, abscesses, overcrowding, and misalignments. Dogs, especially those who love fetching sticks like Fido, often experience cracked or broken teeth. Cats, too, are prone to tooth resorption and feline stomatitis. Being aware of these concerns is crucial for ensuring the well-being of our pets.

Regular vet check-ups should include a dental examination for your pet. Stay vigilant for warning signs between appointments.

  1. Calcified Plaque

Apparent tartar accumulation is closely associated, or paw in hand, with gum disease, paralleling the human condition. It commences with minor gum irritation, referred to as gingivitis, potentially reversible with conscientious care. Unfortunately, pets frequently miss this chance for reversal. The progression involves tartar buildup around the gumline, resulting in infectious pockets and eventual loss of gum tissue and bone.

Acknowledge it’s not merely about aesthetics; gum disease is genuinely hazardous. Beyond leading to tooth shifting and loss, it’s linked to severe health issues such as heart disease, liver, and kidney problems. The infection can migrate from pets’ mouths to vital organs through the bloodstream.

If you observe brown or yellow buildup on your pet’s teeth, they may require a deep cleaning to remove tartar, encouraging gum healing and reattachment. Seek guidance from your vet.

  1. Smelly Breath

Pets aren’t synonymous with minty-fresh breath, yet their loving nose boops and smooches shouldn’t be offensive. Consistent bad breath raises concern, possibly pointing to various health issues.

  1. Bleeding Gums

Just like humans, bleeding gums in pets are a telltale sign of gum disease. While you may not see direct changes on your pet’s gums, there are other ways to spot it. Look for toy or dish smudges and dark fur stains around their mouth. These subtle cues could indicate underlying dental issues.

  1. Increased Drooling

Certain dog breeds are predisposed to slobbering more than others. If you have a Bloodhound, Boxer, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Retriever, or Basset Hound, you’re likely aware of their tendency to be a bit drooly. However, if your pet, who isn’t typically slobbery, starts producing excessive or stringy drool, it could be a cause for concern.

  • Typically, cats don’t drool, so if you spot Fluffy dribbling, pay attention.
  1. Spilling Food 

Though pets may not always eat with finesse, they typically excel at getting food into their mouths. However, if your furry friend is grappling with dental issues, chewing may become painful or challenging. You might notice them unintentionally dribbling food from the side of their mouth.

  1. Selecting Soft Food/Treats

Dealing with a sore tooth while chewing is uncomfortable. Hard food exacerbates the pain. You may observe Fido or Fluffy favoring softer items and disregarding their dry food. Your pet might also lose enthusiasm for hard treats.

  1. Subdued Inclination Towards Play

Fido’s playful demeanor often involves his mouth, so dental issues might interfere with his enjoyment of games like Fetch or Tug O War. Likewise, Fluffy might lose interest in batting at a catnip mouse or chasing after the elusive red dot if dental problems affect her inclination to play. Dental health plays a vital role in pets’ enjoyment of their favorite activities.

  1. Swelling

Evident swelling serves as a critical warning. It indicates significant discomfort for your pet and suggests the presence of a potentially severe infection. While all infections carry risks, those near the brain are especially alarming due to their proximity to vital organs. Prompt veterinary care is necessary to address such serious health issues.

  1. Recoiling from Physical Touch

Be vigilant if your pet begins shying away from head or face contact unexpectedly. This is especially concerning if your pet usually enjoys forehead rubs or ear scratches. Any sudden aversion to these interactions may indicate discomfort or pain, requiring immediate veterinary evaluation.

  1. Cantankerous Disposition

Have you ever dealt with a toothache? It likely didn’t improve your mood. Pain is universally unpleasant. If your furry friend suddenly behaves differently, retreating to a quiet spot and avoiding family interaction, it could signal discomfort. In severe cases, pets may even growl or snap when their face or mouth is touched. Recognizing these signs promptly is crucial for addressing potential dental issues and ensuring your pet’s well-being.

  1. Pawing at the Oral Cavity

This behavior is typical in cats. You may observe your furry friend pawing at her mouth or face. While it might be a regular grooming behavior for Fluffy, if it seems unusual or continuous, it could signal an underlying issue that warrants evaluation by a veterinarian.

  1. Matted Fur (Cats)

Felines are typically skilled at self-grooming, with Fluffy dedicating several hours each day to uphold her soft, clean fur. If your cat is grappling with mouth pain, it may impede this routine. Unwell cats often forsake their regular beauty habits, resembling the human tendency to feel unlike themselves during sickness. Detecting alterations in your cat’s grooming behavior becomes a vital cue to vigilantly monitor and address potential health concerns.

  1. Changes in Dietary Regimen

One more crucial consideration to be especially vigilant about would be any adjustments or alterations in your furry friend’s eating behaviors or routines. As previously mentioned, although a preference for softer food may serve as a significant red flag, it’s essential to remain attentive to additional signs. Your beloved pet may also display changes such as extended meal times or shifts in their appetite.

  1. Appetite Suppression

Severe dental pain in pets can lead to a complete loss of appetite, resulting in weight loss and potential malnutrition, which are significant health risks. Reduced appetite may indicate various underlying health issues. Therefore, it’s crucial to promptly consult your veterinarian if your pet shows signs of not eating. Immediate intervention ensures proper management of their dental health and overall well-being, preventing further complications and promoting a speedy recovery.

  1. Sneezing

Dental problems often give rise to challenges in nasal passages or sinuses, leading to abnormal nasal discharge, an aberration for pets like Fido or Fluffy. Acknowledging these indications underscores the need for prompt veterinary attention.

  • More Clues of Dental Troubles

Separately listing the most common warning signs such as those above, some signs are easily visible to the naked eye, like:

  • Extra Teeth
  • Missing Teeth
  • Visible Abscesses
  • Inflammation

If any of these are spotted, contact your Crown Point, IN veterinary clinic promptly.

Similar Signs Can be Found in Pocket Pets

It’s crucial to care for our smallest companions too! Animals like gerbils, hamsters, Guinea pigs, and bunnies have open-rooted teeth, making them susceptible to dental problems due to continuous growth. Providing appropriate chew toys is essential to manage this. Alongside the listed signs, monitor for a soiled bottom, teeth grinding, vocalizations indicating pain, diarrhea, and visibly overgrown teeth to ensure their dental health and overall well-being.

Maintaining proper dental health in pets is paramount due to the prevalence of dental issues often overlooked by pet owners. Warning signs, such as tartar buildup, drooling, weight loss, bad breath, changes in eating habits, and visible swelling, indicate potential dental problems. Timely intervention by contacting a veterinarian upon noticing these signs is crucial. Dental issues not only cause discomfort but can also lead to more severe health complications if left untreated. Therefore, regular dental care and prompt veterinary attention are essential for ensuring the overall well-being and quality of life for our furry companions.

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms in your pet, please feel free to contact us, Southlake Merrillville Animal Hospital near Crown Point, IN, anytime. We’re here to assist you!