Periodontal disease can negatively impact your dog's overall health as well as their dental health, but what is periodontal disease in dogs, and how can you prevent it? Today our Riverside vets explain how you can help to keep your dog's mouth healthy and the causes, signs, and treatments for periodontal disease.
What is Periodontal Disease in Dogs?
Periodontitis - otherwise known as periodontal disease or gum disease - is caused by bacteria that can infect your dog’s mouth and start to cause a variety of issues. Much like tooth decay in people, dogs with periodontal disease typically don’t show any obvious symptoms until the condition reaches more advanced stages.
When the symptoms of periodontal disease do begin to become apparent, your dog may already be experiencing chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion, or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your dog's teeth are weakened or lost.
Causes of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
The gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque then combines with other minerals and gradually hardens into tartar over a few days. Once tartar forms on your pup's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away.
When left untreated the tartar 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 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
- Excessive grooming habits
- Crowded teeth
Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
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 the 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 the mouth
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
Periodontal disease is a serious health concern for dogs. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your dog could be experiencing significant chronic pain. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel throughout your dog's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues such as heart disease.
Treatment For Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If your dog 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.
To perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments necessary, your vet will use anesthesia. (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
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 dog's oral health, which includes 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 dog 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 dog with fun-to-chew dental care toys to help address dental disease and reduce the buildup of tartar.
If your dog 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.