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Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Prevention & Treatment

Periodontal disease is a condition that not only affects the gumline and oral health of your dog but also their overall health. Our Kingman vets explain more about periodontal disease in dogs, the symptoms and diagnosis as well as how it is treated.

What is periodontal disease in dogs?

Periodontitis is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria within your dog's mouth. Typically there won't be any signs or symptoms of this disease until the disease is in the later stages. Which makes it very important to have your 

That said, gum disease can cause your pup to experience chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pet's teeth are weakened or lost.

Plaque develops when food particles and bacteria build up along your dog's gumline and if not brushed away this plaque will continue to build up. The plaque on your dog's teeth can then turn into a calculus which we refer to as tartar.

Tartar buildup along your dog's gumline can lead to inflammation and irritation of the gums called gingivitis. Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease in both dogs and humans.

As your pet's periodontal disease continues to progress, the attachment between gums and teeth starts to become lost, which intensifies in stage three and becomes advanced periodontal disease in the fourth stage. The fourth stage of periodontal disease in dogs is characterized by receding gum tissue, loss of 50% of the attachment between teeth and gums, and exposure of tooth roots.

The common symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs

Although there may be little or no early signs of periodontal disease in your dog, there may be some symptoms if your dog is suffering from advanced gum disease such as: 

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
  • Loose or missing teeth teeth
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Blood on chew toys or in water bowl
  • Excessive drooling
  • Irritability
  • Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
  • Problems keeping food in mouth
  • Reduced appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody or “ropey” saliva

Periodontal disease in dogs should always be taken seriously by pet parents. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your dog could be experiencing significant chronic pain. Not only that, as with people, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel throughout your dog's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues such as heart disease.

What are the most common 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 may begin to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth may start to loosen. In small and toy breeds it is not unusual for advanced periodontal disease to lead to 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 periodontal disease in dogs diagnosed and treated?

If your dog has periodontal disease your vet may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health issues.

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 perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments required, the use of anesthesia will be necessary. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is an important step to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).

Dental procedures for dogs should include:

  • A complete set of dental radiographs
  • 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
  • Any extractions that may be required, local anesthesia such as novocaine
  • Pain medication during and post-procedure

What are some methods of preventing periodontal disease in dogs?

With routine dental care and examinations, you can help to prevent oral concerns such as periodontal disease.

Don’t 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 every six months for an oral health evaluation. These twice-yearly appointments will also provide you with an opportunity to ask your vet any questions you may have about caring for your pet's teeth at home.

Prevent problems from taking hold between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to prevent plaque and bacteria from forming, ensuring that you use a toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs as human toothpaste is toxic and potentially life-threatening 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 you begin to notice signs of periodontal disease in your dog such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet immediately.

Is your dog experiencing the symptoms of periodontal disease? Our Kingman vets can provide quality dental examinations and treatment for your pup.

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Cerbat Cliffs Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Kingman companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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