Periodontal disease, known more commonly as gum disease, can have negative effects on your dog's oral and overall health. Today our San Gabriel vets discuss periodontal disease in dogs, including how you can help prevent it.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontitis, otherwise known as periodontal disease or gum disease, is an infection of the gums that is caused by a build-up of bacteria in the form of plaque.
Similar to gum disease in humans, periodontal disease in dogs is often difficult to spot in its early stages. As it moves into its advanced stage it can cause pain, gum erosion, and tooth loss.
Periodontal disease has also been linked to an increased risk of health issues such as cardiovascular disease. This is because the infection in your dog's mouth can spread through their bloodstream into other areas of the body.
Why does my dog have periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is caused when plaque - a sticky thin film of bacteria - builds up on your dog's teeth. If the plaque is left on the teeth, it hardens into tartar and becomes much more difficult to remove.
When left untreated the tartar will continue to build up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing pockets between the gums and the teeth where bacteria can grow. 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, a lack of dental care, excessive grooming habits, and crowded teeth.
Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
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
- 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
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
If you notice any of the above symptoms you should arrange for a dental checkup with your vet as soon as possible.
How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs
How your veterinarian proceeds with treatment for your dog's gum disease depends on how advanced it is. In its early stages, a professional dental cleaning may be all that's required.
During a cleaning, your dog will be put under anesthesia to keep them calm and prevent them from biting or struggling. Your vet will then examine your pet's mouth thoroughly, clean and polish each tooth (including under the gumline), and apply fluoride and a dental sealant to each tooth. Fluoride helps strengthen the teeth while a dental sealant prevents plaque from attaching to the enamel.
If your dog's periodontal disease is more advanced, your vet will perform advanced restorative procedures that will include removing the diseased material from the pockets in your pup's gums and potentially using an antibiotic gel. Diligent at-home dental care and return visits to your vet for additional dental cleanings will likely be required in order to save your dog's teeth.
If the periodontal disease is too advanced to treat your dog will have to have their teeth extracted.
Preventing 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 canine 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 at least annually 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. There are also fun-to-chew dental care toys that can 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.
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.