Your dog's oral and overall health and wellbeing can be seriously impacted by periodontal disease—or gum disease. Here, our Johns Creek vets explain what this disease is, including its symptoms, causes and options for treatment. We also provide you with tips on preventing these health issues.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontal disease is caused by the infection of your pup's oral cavity by periodontitis bacteria. This disease usually silently invades your dog's mouth and won't cause any noticeable symptoms until it is at an advanced stage. That being said, gum disease can cause chronic pain, the loss of bone mass and teeth as well as the erosion of your gums.
When food particles and bacteria collect align your pup's gum line aren't brushed away during routine tooth brushing, they can develop into plaque and then harden into tartar. This can cause irritation and inflammation along your pet's gum line and in the surrounding areas. This is often called gingivitis and represents the first stages of gum disease.
What are the symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?
There are some characteristic symptoms of canine periodontitis that dog owners should look our for, including:
- Weight loss
- Drop in appetite
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in water bowl or on chew toys
By the time the signs of advanced periodontitis appear, your dog may actually be in significant and chronic pain. At times like this, our pets tend to self-isolate to keep from showing weakness to predators.
Unfortunately, the effects of gum disease aren't confined to your dog's mouth. This condition can cause a number of issues in your pup's major organs and lead to heart disease since the bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloostream and make their way to the heart.
What causes periodontal disease?
Bacteria in your pooch’s mouth can accumulate and eventually develop into plaque, which meets other minerals and hardens within two to three days. Calculus then forms on the teeth and gets more difficult to scrape away.
The immune system will begin to fight this buildup of bacteria, causing reactions such as inflamed gums and more obvious signs of gum disease.
A poor diet or nutrition can factor into your dog's predisposition for periodontal disease, as do environmental factors like grooming habits, teeth alignment, dirty toys and oral hygiene.
How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?
Costs of dental procedures such as teeth cleanings may vary widely depending on the level of care provided by your veterinarian, your pet’s needs, and other factors. Your pet will need to have blood work before being put under anesthesia to ensure she’s healthy enough for the medication, which can cause problems for dogs with organ diseases.
Any dental procedure should include:
- Anesthesia monitoring
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Circulating warm air to ensure the patient stays warm while under anesthesia
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Local anesthesia such as novocaine, if any extractions are needed
- Pain medication during and after the procedure
How can I prevent my dog from getting periodontal disease?
Fortunately, we pet parents can prevent our pooches from getting periodontal disease, and the condition can be treated and reversed - if detected early.
When it comes to your pup's oral health, make sure you don't procrastinate. Just like in people, dogs require regularly scheduled dental appointments to maintain their oral health and identify potential trouble spots. You should bring your canine companion in to your vet at least once per year to have their oral health evaluated.
You’ll also have the chance to ask any questions you may have regarding at-home care, and find out how often your pet should come in for professional teeth cleanings (as those with issues may need to come more frequently).
Prevent issues from developing into unmanageable situations between appointments by doing a daily brushing of your dog’s teeth to prevent bacteria and plaque from getting a foothold (choose a toothpaste made especially for dogs).
There are also dental chews, dog food and chew toys designed to address dental disease and reduce tartar development. But fair warning: don’t try to replace brushing with these - think of them as an add-on to regular oral care). If you notice inflamed or swollen gums, missing teeth or even appetite changes, book an appointment immediately.
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.