Periodontal disease can have a hugely negative effect on your dog's dental health and general health. What exactly is periodontal disease in dogs and how can you prevent it? Our Seattle vets explain how you can help keep your dog's teeth healthy.
What is Periodontal Disease in Dogs?
Periodontitis - also known as periodontal disease or gum disease - is a form of bacteria that can infect your dog's mouth and start to cause a variety of issues. Much like tooth decay in humans, dogs with the 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 show, your dog may already be experiencing ongoing pain, tooth loss, gum erosion, or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your dog's teeth are weakened or lost.
Why Does My Dog Have Periodontal Disease?
Bacteria gradually build up in your dog's mouth and develop into plaque before combining with other minerals and hardening into tartar over a few days. Once tartar covers your dog's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away.
Left untreated, the tartar will keep building up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth. Pockets develop in the gums, which can become filled with bacteria that causes infection. At this stage, abscesses and other issues may start to form and tissue and bone start deteriorating. Your dog's teeth may start to loosen and fall out.
In small and toy breed dogs with advanced periodontal disease, jaw fractures are relatively common. The development of periodontal disease in dogs may also be associated with poor diet and nutrition. Other factors that can contribute to the development of this condition include excessive grooming habits, crowded teeth and dirty toys.
What are the Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs?
The early stages of periodontal disease typically do not trigger more than a few, if any, symptoms. That said, if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease, you may notice one or more of these symptoms:
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Reduced appetite
- Favoring one side of the mouth while chewing
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Loose or missing teeth
- 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 dog could be experiencing significant chronic pain, but that's not all.
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.
How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If your dog is developing or suffering from the symptoms of periodontal disease your Seattle vets may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.
The cost of your 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:
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Dental radiographs (x-rays)
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- 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
How Can I Prevent My 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 dog's oral health. Just like people, your dog needs regular dental care to keep their oral hygiene in order and to identify any issues that may be arising before more serious issues develop.
Your dog's dental appointments at the vet are just like taking your dog to see a 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.