Periodontal disease, or gum disease, commonly afflicts dogs and can have a negative effect on their oral and overall health. Today, our Redmond vets explain the cause and symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs and how you can help prevent this painful condition.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontitis - otherwise known as periodontal disease or gum disease - happens when your pup has an excess build-up of plaque that begins to cause infection. Much like tooth decay in people, dogs with periodontal disease typically don’t show any obvious symptoms until the condition reaches a more advanced stage.
When the symptoms of periodontal disease do begin to become apparent, your dog may already be experiencing chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth are weakened or lost.
Why does my dog have periodontal disease?
When plaque (a thin, sticky film of bacteria) is allowed to accumulate on your dog's teeth, it will harden into a substance called tartar.
When left untreated the tartar will continue to build up and eventually cause pockets to form between the gums and the teeth where bacteria become trapped and create an infection. At this stage, abscesses may begin to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth may start to loosen and fall out.
In small and toy breed dogs advanced periodontal disease often leads to jaw fractures.
The development of periodontal disease in dogs can also be associated with poor nutrition and diet in some dogs. Other factors that may contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs can include dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and crowded teeth.
What are the signs of periodontal disease in dogs?
There are typically few or no signs of periodontal disease while the condition is in the early stages, however, if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
- Blood on chew toys or in water bowl
- Excessive drooling (that may contain blood)
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Problems keeping food in mouth
- Weight loss
As you can see, periodontal disease is a serious health concern. Besides affecting your dog's oral health, periodontal disease has been linked to other health conditions such as heart disease. This is because the bacteria in your pup's mouth can spread through the bloodstream to other organs.
How is periodontal disease treated in dogs?
If your dog is developing or suffering from the symptoms of periodontal disease your vet may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.
For your vet to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments necessary, the use of anesthesia will be required. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is also an important step in order to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs typically include:
- Dental radiographs (X-rays)
- Tooth charting
- Tooth scaling and polishing
- Application of fluoride
- Application of a dental sealant
- Extractions as required (with local anesthesia such as novocaine)
- Pain medication during and post-procedure when required
How can I prevent my dog from developing periodontal disease?
Fortunately, periodontal disease can be prevented, treated, and even reversed if it is detected in its early stages. There are two key approaches to caring for your dog's oral health.
Professional Cleanings & Dental Exams for Your Dog
To help prevent periodontal disease in your dog, be sure not to neglect your pup's oral health. Just like people, our four-legged friends need regular dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in check and to identify any trouble spots before more serious issues develop.
You should bring your dog to your vet for a professional cleaning at least annually. If your dog is already suffering from early-stage periodontal disease (gingivitis) or has other oral health concerns, your vet may recommend you visit more often.
Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home
To prevent the development of periodontal disease between appointments you should brush your dog's teeth daily to remove plaque and prevent bacteria from forming. You may also want to offer your dog specially formulated dental chews or fun-to-chew dental care. These products are designed to remove plaque from your dog's teeth as they chew.
If your pup is showing signs of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes, or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Remember that oral health issues in dogs can be very painful.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.