Common Dental Problems in Senior Dogs and Cats

dog and cat sitting next to each other in grass

Common Dental Problems in Senior Dogs and Cats

As our beloved canine and feline companions gracefully age, they bring boundless joy and cherished memories. Yet, with aging come inevitable changes in their health, including dental issues. Like humans, senior dogs and cats require extra attention to maintain oral hygiene. However, unlike most humans, sometimes senior animals have gone a whole lifetime without dental care, and these issues can become more readily apparent as our pets get older. Ignoring dental health can lead to discomfort, pain, and severe health complications. But as pet owners, we have the power to make a difference. Let’s delve into common dental problems in our senior pets and how we can address them effectively.


1. Gingivitis:

Gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen gums, is a common dental problem in senior pets. Poor dental hygiene, bacteria, and plaque buildup contribute to developing gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can progress to more severe periodontal disease. Establishing a regular dental care routine, including brushing your pet’s teeth daily and providing dental treats, can help prevent and manage gingivitis.


2. Periodontal Disease:

Periodontitis often accompanies or follows closely behind the development of gingivitis. This is one of the most prevalent dental issues in senior pets. One source reported that 80% of canines greater than 2 years old will be affected with periodontitis1. Periodontal disease involves inflammation and infection of the gums and surrounding structures, often caused by plaque and tartar buildup. Symptoms may include bad breath, swollen gums, and less often difficulty eating. Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are not just important; they are crucial to prevent and manage periodontal disease. Additionally, incorporating appropriate dental chews and toys can help reduce plaque buildup between cleanings. Keep in mind- dogs and cats almost never show signs of oral pain! Please don’t skip your animal’s annual oral examination just because they are eating normally. This does not mean that painful lesions are not present. 


3. Broken, Missing, or Worn Teeth:

Over the years, wear and tear can take a toll on our pets’ teeth, leading to fractures or even tooth loss. Broken teeth can cause pain and discomfort, affecting their ability to eat and groom properly. It’s essential to promptly address broken or missing teeth to prevent infection and further complications. Your veterinarian may recommend dental procedures such as extractions, root canals, or bonded sealants to alleviate pain and restore oral health.


4. Oral Tumors:

While less common, oral tumors can occur in senior dogs and cats. These tumors may manifest as lumps or growths in the mouth, causing pain, difficulty eating, and often significant malodor. Early detection is critical to managing oral tumors effectively. Regular dental exams and monitoring for any unusual growths or changes in your pet’s mouth can aid in early diagnosis and treatment. Remember that tumors do not occur exclusively in senior animals! While they may be more likely to be discovered in an older patient, young dogs and cats are not immune to oral masses. 


Veterinary Dentist in Colorado Springs

In conclusion, proactive dental care is vital for senior dogs’ and cat’s overall health and well-being. By staying vigilant and addressing dental issues promptly, we can ensure our companions enjoy happy and healthy smiles well into their golden years. Remember, extra care goes a long way in preserving those precious pearly whites! If your dog or cat is due for their annual dental checkup, contact us today to schedule an appointment. 


  1. Wiggs RB, Lobprise HB. Periodontology In:Veterinary dentistry, principals and practice: Philadelphia:Lippincott Raven; 1997. pp. 186–231.


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