3 most common oral and dental diseases of dogs and cats

Oral and dental diseases are one of the most common problems in small animal veterinary practice, and all cause pain to the animals.

The far most common are the diseases of the tooth-supporting tissues (periodontal diseases); the newest studies report that literally all (90%) dogs, especially small and toy breed dogs, suffer from periodontal diseases very early in life. Cats seem to develop periodontal diseases a bit later, but still – 70% of cats at 3 years of age will have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal diseases are usually chronic diseases, caused by bacteria (and other microorganisms) in the dental plaque. It is important to know, that the disease is reversible, if inflammation is limited to the gum (gingivitis). Once the disease progresses to cause destruction of the tooth-supporting structures, it is mostly irreversible and may lead to tooth loss. Prevention is the key! 


Dental fractures are also very common, affecting approximately half of the animals, more commonly dogs. Most commonly affected are strategic teeth (upper canine and fourth premolar teeth, lower canine and first molar teeth) of younger animals. Among other causes, dental fractures are commonly a result of chewing on hard treats and toys – so there is a lot we can do to prevent dental fractures. All fractured teeth should be examined, including dental radiography and if any signs of endodontic disease are noted, such teeth must be treated.

Tooth resorption affects up to 70% of domestic cats and about half of the dogs. The causes of tooth resorption are not well understood, but there is evident activation of cells (odontoclasts) that resorb hard dental tissues, possibly leading to pulp exposure, dental fracture and tooth loss. Diagnosis of tooth resorption requires thorough dental examination and dental radiographs. In general, if the lesion is exposed to the oral cavity and/or there are any signs of endodontic disease and/or there are signs of inflammation, the tooth must be treated.

Early detection and consistent therapy are therefore critical to provide animals comfort and health.

If you have noted any problems with your animal, please consult your veterinarian.

Selected references
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2. Clarke DE (1995). Endodontics of dogs and cats: an alternative to extraction. Aus Vet J 72(10): 383–389.
3. DuPont G (2010) Pathologies of the dental hard tissues. In: Small animal dental, oral & maxillofacial disease. BA Niemiec, Ed., CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, Boca Raton, pp. 127–157.
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10. Lommer MJ (2012). Special considerations in feline exodontics. In: Verstraete FJM, Lommer M, eds. Oral and maxillofacial surgery in dogs and cats. Saunders Elsevier, Edinburgh: 141-152.
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12. Marshall MD, Wallis CV, Milella L, Colyer A, Tweedie AD, Harris S (2014). A longitudinal assessment of periodontal disease in 52 Miniature Schnauzers. BMC Vet Res, doi: 10.1186/1746-6148-10-166.
13. Peralta S, Verstraete FJ, Kass PH (2010). Radiographic evaluation of the types of tooth resorption in dogs. Am J Vet Res 71(7):784-793.
14. Soukup JW, Hetzel S, Paul A (2015). Classification and epidemiology of traumatic dentoalveolar injuries in dogs and cats: 959 injuries in 660 patient visits (2004-2012). J Vet Dent 32(1): 6-14.
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