What Is Periodontal Disease In Dogs?
Also referred to as periodontal disease or gum disease, periodontitis is a type of bacteria that can infect your dog's mouth and start to cause a range of issues. Similar to tooth decay in people, dogs with the periodontal disease typically won't show any apparent symptoms until the condition has reached an advanced stage.
By the time symptoms of the periodontal disease start to become clear, your dog may already be suffering from gum erosion, tooth or bone loss, and chronic pain as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth weaken or are lost.
Why Does My Dog Have Periodontal Disease?
Bacteria tends to build up gradually in a dog's mouth and develop into plaque before combining with other minerals. This plaque takes a few days to harden into tartar. Once your dog's teeth become covered in tartar, this hardened plaque becomes more difficult to scrape away.
As untreated tartar continues to build up on teeth until the gums separate from them, leading to the development of pockets between the teeth and gums. Bacteria grows here and abscesses may begin to develop. Bone and tissue may also start to deteriorate. This is when a dog's teeth can loosen and start to fall out.
For small and toy breed dogs, the advanced periodontal disease frequently leads to fractures of the jaw.
In some cases, poor diet and nutrition can lead to the development of periodontal disease in dogs. Other factors that may contribute to this condition include dirty toys, crowded teeth, and excessive grooming habits.
What Are The Signs Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs?
While periodontal disease is in its early stages of development, you don't typically see any signs of the condition. That said, if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease you might spot one or more of these symptoms:
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Weight loss
Remember that periodontal disease is a serious health concern for dogs. Once the disease advances to its later stages, your pooch may be experiencing significant chronic pain, but that's not all.
In another similarity to humans, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel through your pup's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues, including heart disease.
How Is Periodontal Disease Treated In Dogs?
If your pooch 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.
The cost of your dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment required and the individual vet.
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 to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs typically include:
- Dental radiographs (x-rays)
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic, and oxygen
- Circulating warm air to ensure the patient remains warm while under anesthesia
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing, and lavage of gingival areas
- Extractions as required (with local anesthesia such as novocaine)
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
How Can I Prevent My Dog From Developing Periodontal Disease?
Fortunately, periodontal disease can be prevented, treated, and 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.
Your dog's dental appointments at the vet are just like taking your pooch to see a doggie dentist. It is recommended that most dogs see the vet about every six months for an oral health evaluation. These appointments provide you with an opportunity to speak to your vet about any concerns you may have about your dog's teeth or overall health.
Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home
To prevent problems from taking hold between appointments 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 and dog food, as well as supply your pup with fun-to-chew dental care toys to help address dental disease and reduce the buildup of tartar.
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.