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Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Just like humans, periodontal disease (gum disease) can negatively impact your pup's overall health as well as their oral health. Our Cordova vets share more about periodontal disease in dogs, the symptoms, causes and what treatments are available to restore your dog's optimal oral health. 

What is periodontal disease (gum disease)?

Periodontitis is a bacteria that can infect your dog’s mouth and begin to cause a host of problems. This gradual condition typically doesn’t show any obvious signs or symptoms in dogs until it reaches more advanced stages.

Once periodontal disease has reached the stage where it becomes evident to most pet parents, it is likely causing your pup to experience symptoms such as chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pet's teeth are weakened or lost.

How does periodontal disease happen 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 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 breeds it is not unusual for advanced periodontal disease to lead to jaw fractures.

What are the symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?

While there are typically little or no signs of early stage periodontal disease in dogs, if your dog is suffering from advanced gum 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
  • Irritability
  • Problems keeping food in mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody or “ropey” saliva

Periodontal disease in dogs is a serious health concern. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your dog could be experiencing significant chronic pain, but that's not all. As with people, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel throughout you dog's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading serious medical issues 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.

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 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.

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