Periodontal Disease in Dogs
The bacteria periodontitis can silently invade your dog’s mouth, infect the oral cavity and cause periodontal (gum) disease. Typically, so signs or symptoms appear until the condition has become more advanced.
That said, just because the early stages of this disease are often silent does not mean it is harmless. Gum disease can cause chronic pain, gum erosion, and tooth and bone loss. Structures supporting the teeth can also be weakened or lost.
Dogs can encounter oral health issues similar to what we humans deal with. Food and bacteria can naturally build up between our pets’ teeth and accumulate along the gum line much like it does with us. If bacteria are not regularly brushed away, plaque can develop and harden into calculus (also referred to as tartar).
This leads to irritation and inflammation of the gum line and surrounding areas. This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. However, dental issues don’t have to become this severe. Periodontitis can be prevented with a regular oral hygiene routine and attentive dog dental care from your veterinarian.
What are symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?
At Miller Clark Animal Hospital, we assess your pet’s oral health and check for these common symptoms of periodontitis during your pet’s annual dental cleanings and exams. You can also look for the following at home:
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Weight loss
- “Ropey” or bloody saliva
- Loose or missing teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in water or on chew toys
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Decrease in appetite
Your dog may already be suffering from significant chronic pain as a result of advanced periodontitis by the time you or your veterinarian notice signs. If this is the case, pets tend to self-isolate out of instinct to avoid showing weakness to predators.
Unfortunately, the impacts of gum disease can reach far beyond your dog’s mouth. The condition can lead to issues with many of the body’s major organs. Since bacteria can enter the bloodstream and surround the heart, this can also lead to heart disease.
What causes periodontal disease?
If periodontitis bacteria have a chance to build up in your dog’s mouth, they can develop into plaque and combine with other minerals. After it’s hardened (typically within two to three days), tartar or calculus develops on the teeth and becomes more difficult to remove.
This triggers the immune system to attempt to fight the buildup of bacteria. More blood is sent to the gums that then become inflamed and more obvious symptoms of gum disease begin to appear.
Poor diet and nutrition are sometimes also partly to blame for the development of periodontal disease in dogs, along with alignment of teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more susceptible to gum disease), oral hygiene and grooming habits (does your pooch lick himself frequently?), and environmental factors such as dirty toys.
How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?
Before being put under antesthesia, your pet will need to have bloodwork to ensure he’s healthy enough to have the medication, which may cause problems for dogs with organ diseases. Cotss of dental procedures such as teeth cleanings can vary widely depending on the level of care needed from your vet, your pet’s requirements, and other factors.
Any dental procedure should include:
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Circulating warm air to ensure patient stays warm while under anesthesia
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Local anesthesia such as novocaine, if any extractions are needed
- Pain medication during and after the procedure
How can I prevent my dog from getting periodontal disease?
Fortunately, we pet parents can prevent our pooches from getting periodontal disease, and the condition can be treated and reversed - if detected early.
When it comes to your dog’s oral health, don’t neglect it or procrastinate. Similar to their people, they require regular dental appointments to keep up with oral hygiene and identify any trouble spots. Your pup should see the vet at least once each year to have her oral health evaluated.
You’ll also have the chance to ask any questions you may have regarding at-home care, and find out how often your pet should come in for professional teeth cleanings (as those with issues may need to come more frequently).
Prevent issues from developing into unmanageable situations between appointments by doing a daily brushing of your dog’s teeth to prevent bacteria and plaque from getting a foothold (choose a toothpaste made specially for dogs).
There are also dental chews, dog food and chew toys designed to address dental disease and reduce tartar development. But fair warning: don’t try to replace brushing with these - think of them as an add-on to regular oral care). If you notice inflamed or swollen gums, missing teeth or even appetite changes, book an appointment immediately.
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.