Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) can threaten a dog's oral and overall health. Today our Bedford vets discuss the symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs, its causes, the treatment options available, as well as how it can be prevented.
What's periodontal disease?
Periodontitis is a bacteria that can infect your dog’s mouth. This is a silent condition that usually won't show any clear symptoms or signs in dogs until it becomes more advanced.
Once gum disease advances it can cause gum erosion, tooth loss, chronic pain, and even bone loss as the structures that support your dog's teeth become weakened or lost.
As with humans, if bacteria and food particles aren't brushed away and are allowed to build up along your pup's gumline, plaque will develop. The plaque on your dog's teeth could then turn into calculus (tartar).
Tartar buildup along your pooch's gum line can cause inflammation and irritation of the gums known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is one of the earliest forms of periodontal disease in both people and dogs.
As your dog's periodontal disease progresses, the attachment between gums and teeth begins to get lost, which intensifies in stage three and leads to advanced periodontal disease in the fourth stage. The fourth stage of periodontal disease in dogs can be recognized by the receding gum tissue, loss of 50% of the attachment between teeth and gums, and the exposure of the teeth' roots.
What are the symptoms of dog periodontal disease?
While there are no or little signs of early-stage periodontal disease in dogs, if your pup is suffering from an advanced stage of gum disease you might notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Blood on chew toys or in their water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Weight loss
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
If you see your pooch displaying any symptoms of periodontal disease you must take it seriously. As soon as the disease reaches its advanced stages your dog may be suffering from a great deal of chronic pain. Also, as it is with people, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel through your pup's body, possibly causing issues with major organs and serious medical problems such as heart disease.
What are the causes of periodontal disease in dogs?
The gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque which combines with other minerals and hardens into calculus (tartar) within just a few days. Once calculus forms on your dog's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away. Subsequently, the calculus will continue to build up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. At this stage, abscesses can start to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth could start to loosen. In small and toy breeds it is not unusual for advanced periodontal disease to cause jaw fractures.
Poor nutrition and diet can play a role in the development of periodontal disease in dogs. Other contributors to the development of periodontal disease in dogs can include dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and misalignment of teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more vulnerable to gum disease).
How is dog periodontal disease treated?
If your dog has periodontal disease your vet could recommend a professional oral hygiene cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.
The cost of dental care for dogs varies depending on the level of care required and the individual vet. In order for your vet to conduct a complete examination of your pup's teeth and gums, as well as provide any treatments needed, they will use anesthesia. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is an important part of determining whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs typically consist of:
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Circulating warm air to make sure the pet stays warm while under anesthesia
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Any extractions that might be needed, local anesthesia such as novocaine
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
How can I prevent my dog from developing periodontal disease?
Luckily, periodontal disease in dogs can be prevented, treated and reversed if found early.
Don’t neglect your dog’s oral health. Just like people, dogs require routine dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in check and to find any trouble spots before more serious problems arise. Your pooch should visit your primary veterinarian approximately every six months for an oral health assessment. These two appointments every year will also give you an opportunity to ask your vet any questions you might have about your pet's at-home dental care routine.
Prevent any problems from arising between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to prevent plaque and bacteria from forming (choose a toothpaste specially made for dogs). You could also offer your dog specially formulated dental chews and dog food, as well as specially designed toys that can help address dental disease and reduce the development of calculus.
If your dog shows symptoms of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes, or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet immediately.