Bad breath. It’s a common complaint of pet parents regarding their four-legged friends. While unpleasant, bad breath can be a sign of a more serious condition called periodontal disease. Periodontal disease affects both humans and animals. Without proper dental care, periodontal disease can cause serious health problems for your pet. 

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. During this very important month, Clover Hill Animal Hospital will be discussing periodontal disease, its signs and symptoms, its causes, and what we can do about it. 


Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth. As a result of this bacteria, white blood cells begin to break down gum tissues. This process leads to inflamed gums, destroyed tissue, and loss of bone. Gum disease (periodontal disease) is a common occurrence in cats and dogs.. In fact, it occurs five times more often in dogs than people because dogs have more alkalinity in their mouths and because they often do not have their teeth brushed on a daily basis. By the time your pet is three years old, periodontal disease is likely. An estimated 60-80% of pets develop periodontal disease at some point in their lives. 


Periodontal disease can have many symptoms. One of the most common symptoms (and smelliest) is bad breath or “halitosis.” However, periodontal disease can have other signs. According to the American Veterinary Association, some of the most common symptoms and risks of periodontal disease include:

  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain, bleeding, and swelling around the mouth
  • Abscesses or infected teeth
  • Malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
  • Broken (fractured) jaw

Many of these effects of periodontal disease can be extremely painful. Furthermore, the American Veterinary Association warns that without proper treatment, periodontal disease can also impact vital organ systems such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. While periodontal disease begins in the mouth, the entire body can be impacted. Periodontal disease can have a profound effect on your pet’s wellbeing. 


The impact of periodontal disease is surprisingly overwhelming. However, there are ways to treat and prevent it. Daily tooth brushing and yearly cleanings with your pet’s veterinarian can offset and even prevent the effects of periodontal disease. Throughout this month, we will be posting a series of articles about the ways in which we can work together to protect your pet’s mouth. The next blog post will discuss what a professional dental cleaning entails and the techniques veterinarians use to clean your pet’s teeth. The last blog post will discuss what you can do at home to protect your pet’s mouth and overall health. 

As we move through Pet Dental Health Month, we hope to educate our clients about the importance of oral health. Stay tuned for additional blog posts and other resources to help you keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy.