What is periodontal disease (gum disease)?
Once periodontitis bacteria infects your dog's mouth, they can cause numerous problems. Dogs usually don't show any obvious signs or symptoms of this gradually progressive condition until it's in its more advanced stages.
Once periodontal disease progresses to the stage where most pet parents will notice changes, your dog is likely experiencing symptoms such as gum erosion, tooth loss, chronic pain or bone loss as the supporting structures in your pet's teeth weaken or disappear.
How does periodontal disease happen in dogs?
Bacteria builds up in your dog's mouth, develops into plaque and combines with other minerals before hardening into tartar (calculus) in just a few days. Once calculus develops on your dog's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away. Without regular tooth brushing and dental checkups, calculus continues to build up, getting into pockets in the gums and pulling the gums away from the teeth as it continues to grow.
This is when abscesses can form, teeth loosen and fall out and deterioration of bone and tissue can happen. It's not uncommon for advanced periodontal disease to lead to jaw fractures in small and toy breeds.
What are the symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?
With early-stage periodontal disease in dogs, pups will typically show few, if any, signs. If your dog is suffering from advanced gum disease, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
- Blood on chew toys or in water bowl
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Problems keeping food in mouth
- Weight loss
- Reduced appetite
Periodontal disease in dogs is a serious health issue. Once the condition reaches its advanced stages, your dog is likely experiencing significant chronic pain. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel throughout your pooch's body in the bloodstream, potentially causing problems in major organs such as the heart and leading to serious medical problems such as heart disease.
What causes periodontal disease in dogs?
Poor nutrition and diet can play a role in the development of periodontal disease in dogs. Other factors that can contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs can include dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and the misalignment of teeth (crowded teeth).
How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?
If your dog has periodontal disease, your veterinarian may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.
The cost of dental care for your dog will vary depending on the level of care required and the individual vet. In order for your vet to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments required, 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 generally include:
- A complete set of dental radiographs (X-rays)
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Circulating warm air to ensure patient remains warm while under anesthesia
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Any extractions that may be required, local anesthesia such as novocaine
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
How can I prevent my dog from developing periodontal disease?
Fortunately, periodontal disease in dogs can be prevented, treated and reversed if detected in its early stages.
To help prevent periodontal disease, be sure not to neglect your dog’s oral health. Just like people, dogs need regular dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in check and to identify any trouble spots before more serious issues develop. Your pup should visit your primary vet at least every six months for an oral health evaluation. Twice yearly appointments also provide you with an opportunity to speak to your vet about any concerns you may have about your dog's teeth or overall health.
You can help to prevent problems from taking hold between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to prevent plaque and bacteria from forming. You may also want to offer your dog specially formulated dental chews and dog food, as well as specially designed toys to help address dental disease and reduce the development of tartar.
If your pooch is displaying symptoms of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
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.