Periodontal disease can negatively impact your dog's overall health as well as their dental health, but what is periodontal disease in dogs, and how can you prevent it? Today, our Harrisburg vets explain how you can help to keep your dog's mouth healthy.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontitis, also known as periodontal disease or gum disease, is a type of bacteria that can infect your dog's mouth and cause a variety of problems. Dogs with periodontal disease, like people with tooth decay, usually show no obvious symptoms until the condition progresses.
When the symptoms of periodontal disease do begin to become apparent, your dog may already be experiencing chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion, or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth are weakened or lost.
Why does my dog have periodontal disease?
The gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque then combines with other minerals and gradually hardens into tartar over a few days. Once tartar forms on your pup's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away.
If tartar is not removed, it will continue to accumulate and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, creating pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. Abscesses may form at this stage, tissue and bone deterioration may occur, and your dog's teeth may begin to loosen and fall out.
In small and toy breed dogs advanced periodontal disease often leads to jaw fractures.
The development of periodontal disease in dogs can also be associated with poor nutrition and diet in some dogs. Other factors that may contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs can include dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and crowded teeth.
What are the signs of periodontal disease in dogs?
There are typically few or no signs of periodontal disease while the condition is in the early stages, however, if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
It is critical to understand that periodontal disease is a serious health issue for our dogs. When the disease progresses to the advanced stages, your dog may experience 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.
How is periodontal disease treated in dogs?
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 dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment required and the individual vet.
Anesthesia will be required for your vet to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any necessary treatments. (An important step in determining whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications is pre-anesthesia blood work.)
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
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 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.
Taking your dog to the vet for dental care is the same as taking him to a doggie dentist. Most dogs should visit the vet every six months for an oral health examination. These appointments allow you to speak with your veterinarian about any concerns you have about your dog's teeth or overall health.
Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home
Brush your dog's teeth daily to remove plaque and prevent bacteria from forming between appointments to prevent problems from developing. You may also want to give your dog specially formulated dental chews and dog food, as well as fun-to-chew dental care toys, to help address dental disease and reduce tartar buildup.
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.