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15 Key Warning Signs That Your Pet Has Dental Problems

February 1, 2024

February is Pet Dental Health Month. This actually is important all year long. Pets’ dental care is often overlooked. Just like humans, pets can suffer from a variety of dental issues, which can be extremely uncomfortable and troublesome for our furry friends. Fluffy and Fido also have a hard time communicating their discomfort: they can’t exactly make a dentist appointment or tell us what’s wrong. It’s important to keep a close eye out for any potential red flags. To offer further guidance, a nearby Lakewood, CO veterinarian shares their expertise in this article.

Common Dental Issues In Pets

Even the most loving of pet parents can easily overlook signs that something is wrong with their furry friends, especially when it comes to dental issues. Pets can develop many different issues. In addition to gum disease, abscesses, overcrowding, and misalignments, they can also crack or break their teeth. This is common in dogs. Fido may love fetching sticks, but that could backfire on him. Cats are also susceptible to stomatitis and tooth resorption.

Some issues are fairly easy to spot. These include overbites, extra teeth, missing teeth, overcrowding, and misalignments. However, others are easy to miss, especially if you don’t know what to look for.

Here are some of the key warning signs to watch for:

  1. Grouchiness Being in pain is no fun for anyone. This is also true for pets. You may notice your furry pal suddenly does not seem like their usual self. In severe cases, pets may growl or snap when you touch their face or mouth. Or, they may withdraw to a quiet spot, or not engage with the rest of the family.
  1. Changes in Eating Habits As we mentioned, a preference for softer food can be a warning sign, but that isn’t the only one to watch for. Your furry friend may take a longer time eating as well. Or, they may chew on one side of their mouth.
  1. Lack Of Appetite If your furry friend’s teeth are hurting, they may even lose interest in food. This is of course very dangerous, as it can result in weight loss and even malnutrition. 
  1. Bad Breath Those affectionate nose boops and smooches may be cute, but they can get a bit stinky. It’s probably safe to say that most pets don’t have minty-fresh breath. However, really bad breath is a red flag. Bad breath can be indicative of several health issues, including dental problems.
  1. Pawing At The Face We see this a bit more in cats, but it also applies to dogs. Of course, this may be normal while Fluffy is grooming herself. If you notice your feline friend pawing at her mouth or face, and it doesn’t seem like she’s grooming herself, there may be something going on. 
  1. Greasy/Messy Fur Cats are usually pretty devoted to keeping up with their beauty regimes. Fluffy spends several hours a day keeping her fur smooth and clean every day. Cats who aren’t feeling well tend to neglect their regular beauty routines, just as people do. Their coats soon show the neglect.
  1. Bleeding Gums Bleeding gums is also a sign of gum disease in pets, just as it is in humans. You might not notice anything on your pet’s gums, but you may notice smears on their toys or dishes, or notice dark stains on their fur around their mouth.
  1. Excessive Drooling To be fair, some of our canine buddies are naturally a bit slobbery. If you own a Great Dane, Bloodhound, Boxer, Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Retriever, or Basset Hound, you can expect your pup to be a bit sloppy. However, stringy, ropy, or excessive drool can be a sign that something is wrong, especially if your pet isn’t slobbery naturally.

It’s rare for cats to drool, so definitely take note if you see Fluffy dribbling.

  1. Food Dribbles Fido and Fluffy may not be the neatest eaters, but they’re usually pretty good at getting food into their mouths. If your animal companion suffers from dental problems, chewing may be painful or difficult for them. You might notice them dribbling food out of their mouths.
  1. Avoiding Hard Foods/Treats Your pet may also lose interest in hard snacks if they have dental woes. Chewing on a sore tooth is not fun! Hard food only makes things worse. Fido and Fluffy may start to show a clear preference for softer foods and ignore their dry food.
  1. Lack Of Interest In Play Dental problems may make it harder for dogs to play Fetch or Tug of war. After all, Fido uses his mouth to play! In Fluffy’s case, she may not feel like chasing after that mysterious red dot or batting a catnip mouse around.
  1. Swelling Swelling is a huge red flag. Besides being a sign of pain, swelling can also indicate an infection. Infections close to the brain are particularly dangerous.
  1. Not Wanting To Be Touched Pets with dental issues sometimes start shying away from having their head or face touched. This is particularly concerning with animals that usually enjoy having their foreheads or faces rubbed.
  1. Sneezing Some dental problems can cause issues with the nasal passages or sinuses, resulting in nasal discharge that isn’t normal for Fido or Fluffy. The occasional sneeze probably isn’t anything to worry about, but frequent sneezing is another story.
  2. Tartar Gum disease and visible tartar go hand in hand, or hand in paw. In both pets and humans, it begins as minor irritation around the gumline. It can be reversed with good care at this stage. Otherwise, it will continue to progress. In time, tartar will build up around the gumline, creating pockets of infection. As a result, gum tissue and bone will eventually be lost.

Gum disease isn’t just about aesthetics. The infection can move from pets’ mouths to their vital organs, via their bloodstream. Therefore, it can contribute to some very serious health problems, such as heart disease, liver disease, and kidney failure.  If your pet has visible brown or yellow gunk on their teeth, a deep cleaning may be necessary. This will remove tartar and allow the gums to heal and reattach. Ask your Lakewood, CO veterinarian for more information.

Dental Issues In Pocket pets 

Dental issues can also affect our smallest patients, like gerbils, hamsters, Guinea pigs, and bunnies. many of these small animals with open-rooted teeth, which means that their teeth grow continuously. These little balls of fur are highly prone to dental problems. This is why chew toys are so important for them. Many of the symptoms listed above also apply here. You should also watch for signs like a dirty bottom, teeth grinding, pain vocalizations, diarrhea, and visible overgrown teeth. Ask your Lakewood, CO vet for more information. 

Conclusion: Pets’ dental problems are often overlooked. Warning signs include tartar buildup, drooling, weight loss, bad breath, changes in eating habits, and visible swelling. Contact your veterinarian at once if you notice any of these symptoms.

Do you have questions about your pet’s health or care? Please feel free to contact us at any time if you notice any of these signs in your pet. As your local Lakewood, CO pet hospital, we’re here to help!