Your dog's oral health isn't the only thing at risk when they have periodontal disease (gum disease), this condition can also threaten their overall health. Today, our Los Angeles County vets talk to you about periodontal disease in dogs and how it is treated.
Your dog's mouth can become infected with periodontitis bacteria. This is a silent condition that doesn't usually exhibit any obvious symptoms or signs in dogs until it becomes more advanced.
In dogs, gum disease can result in gum erosion, chronic pain, tooth loss, and even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth become weakened or lost.
As with humans, plaque will develop if food particles and bacteria build up along your dog's gum line and aren't brushed away. The plaque on your dog's teeth can then turn into a calculus which can also be referred to as tartar.
Tartar buildup along your dog's gum line 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 dog's periodontal disease keeps progressing, the attachment between gums and teeth will start to become lost, which intensifies in stage three and becomes advanced periodontal disease in stage four. The fourth stage of periodontal disease in dogs is recognized by receding gum tissue, loss of 50% of the attachment between teeth and gums, and the exposure of tooth roots.
Signs & Symptoms of Dog Periodontal Disease
While your pooch probably won't show any signs of periodontal disease in its early stages, if your dog is suffering from advanced gum disease they may exhibit one or more of these symptoms:
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Reduced appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Problems keeping food in their mouth
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Weight loss
- Blood on chew toys or in their water bowl
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
If you are a dog owner, you should take periodontal disease very seriously. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your dog could be suffering from a great deal of chronic pain. Also, as with humans, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel throughout your dog's body, potentially leading to issues with major organs and causing serious medical problems like heart disease.
The Causes of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Within just a few days, the gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque and mixes with other minerals, and hardens into calculus (tartar). Once calculus forms on your dog's teeth, it becomes harder to clean away. Subsequently, the calculus will keep building up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. At this stage, abscesses can start to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth could start to become loose. In small and toy breeds it isn't unusual for advanced periodontal disease to result in jaw fractures.
Poor nutrition and diet can also contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs. Dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and misalignment of teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more vulnerable to gum disease) can also play a role in the rise of gum disease.
How Dogs With Periodontal Disease are Treated
If your dog has periodontal disease your vet may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your pup's oral health condition.
The costs of your dog's dental care will depend on various factors including the level of care required and the vet you go to. In order for your vet to conduct a comprehensive examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as provide any needed treatments, they will have to use anesthesia. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is an important step to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs typically include:
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic, and oxygen
- Scaling, polishing, and lavage of gingival areas
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Circulating warm air to ensure your dog stays warm while under anesthesia
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Any extractions that may be required, local anesthesia such as novocaine
Ways to Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Fortunately, periodontal disease in dogs can be prevented, treated, and reversed if detected in its early stages.
It's very important that your dog's oral health isn't neglected. As with people, our canine companions have to attend regular dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in optimal condition and to find any trouble spots before they turn into serious problems. You should bring your pooch to the vet every six months for an oral health evaluation. These twice-annual visits will also give you the chance to ask your vet any questions you may have regarding your dog's at-home oral care routine.
Prevent problems from taking hold between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to keep plaque and bacteria from forming (choose a toothpaste specially made 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 your dog shows symptoms of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes, or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet immediately.