Canine Periodontal Disease
Also known as periodontitis or gum disease, periodontal disease is a type of bacteria that can infect your pup's mouth and begin to cause several potential issues. Similar to how tooth decay develops in people, dogs with periodontal disease usually don't display any obvious symptoms until the condition has reached more advanced stages.
When symptoms of periodontal disease do become more apparent, your dog may already be experiencing tooth loss, gum erosion, chronic pain or even bone loss as the structures supporting your pooch's teeth are weakened or lost.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
Over time, bacteria can build up in your dog's mouth and develop into plaque before it combines with other minerals, then gradually hardens into tartar over a few days. Once tartar develops on your pup's teeth, it will be more difficult to scrape away.
Left untreated, tartar will continue to accumulate and eventually separate the gums from the teeth. Pockets develop in the gums and become fertile ground for bacteria. Abscesses may begin to form at this stage, tissue and bone deterioration can occur and your dog's teeth may start to loosen and fall out.
Advanced periodontal disease in small and toy breed dogs often leads to jaw fractures. Development of periodontal disease in dogs can also be related to poor nutrition and diet in some cases. Other contributing factors may include crowded teeth, dirty toys and excessive grooming habits.
Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Dogs with periodontal disease will typically show few or no signs when the disease is in its early stages. That said, if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in their water bowl or on chew toys
- Loose or missing teeth
- Reduced appetite
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Weight loss
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Bloody or "ropey" saliva
It's important to note that periodontal disease is a serious health concern for our dogs. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your pooch could be experiencing significant chronic pain, but that's not all.
The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel throughout your pup's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues such as heart disease.
Treating Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Think of veterinary dental care for your dog or cat as similar to seeing your own dentist. Pet dental care is a critical aspect of your pet's overall healthcare routine, and should include an professional cleaning and exam.
If your pooch 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.
The cost of your cat or dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment required and the individual vet.
For your vet to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments necessary, the use of anesthesia will be required. (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 Your Dog From Developing 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 four-legged 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 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 pup with fun-to-chew dental care toys to 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.