February is Pet Dental Health Month, so it’s a good time to answer a question many pet owners have: why doesn’t my dog/cat get gum disease as bad as I do? Although we know we ought as responsible pet owners, most of us don’t brush our pets’ teeth twice a day, and very few of us floss them. So we would expect that our pets would develop bad gum disease.
There are many reasons why our pets don’t seem to get gum disease as bad as people do, but they can develop it. And they experience negative consequences, too, such as receding gums, tooth loss, and even a risk of heart disease.
Why Your Pets Don’t Seem to Get Bad Gum Disease
First, it’s important to make the distinction that pets don’t seem to get gum disease as bad as we do. That’s partly down to perception, not the actual state of their disease.
After all, gum disease doesn’t have very many symptoms at first. The discoloration of gums may not be noticeable if you’re not looking closely and have a good idea of what your pet’s healthy gum color is. And if your pet has bad breath, you’re as likely to attribute it to “dog breath” as to think there’s actually something wrong. You might not notice their changes in behavior if their gums only hurt them a little bit. By the time your dog or cat has bleeding gums or visibly receding gums, their gum disease is very well advanced.
Another factor is that pets have a very different diet than most people have. Even dog and cat foods with relatively high carbohydrate levels count as “low-carb” diets, so there’s less fuel for parasitic bacteria. Even more importantly, those carbs aren’t sugars, so they don’t favor parasitic bacteria so strongly.
And, finally, we have to take age into account. Gum disease is the result of your body waging a marginally losing war against oral bacteria. Therefore, it tends to worsen with age. Few kids have problems with gum disease, or even teens, whose oral hygiene habits may not be what their parents would desire. So it’s actually not that remarkable that a seven-year-old dog might not have gum disease that bad.
Dangers of Gum Disease
Gum disease is just as dangerous for your pets as it is for you. If your pet has uncontrolled gum disease, they can experience many problems, such as receding gums and tooth loss. We haven’t done as much research to confirm it, but it seems like pets are also at risk for secondary effects of gum disease, including heart disease, kidney disease, and liver damage.
Be Diligent about Preventive Care
As we pointed out above, your pet’s gum disease might be a lot worse than you think. So, it’s time to get serious about preventive care for your pets. This includes daily brushing of your pet’s teeth. Because their teeth are shaped differently, flossing may not be as important, but talk to your vet about it.
Although we don’t treat receding gums in dogs and cats, we can help their owners. If you are looking to correct receding gums, please call (949) 551-5902 in Orange County for an appointment at Rice Dentistry in Irvine.