While periodontal disease is a condition that affects your dog's oral health, if left untreated it can also cause complications for their overall health. Our South Plainfield vets discuss periodontal disease in dogs, what it is caused by and how it can be treated.
Periodontal disease in dogs
Periodontitis is a bacteria that can cause infection in your dog's mouth that usually doesn't show any signs until it is in its advanced stages.
That said, gum disease can cause your pup to experience chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pet's teeth are weakened or lost.
When the food particles and bacteria aren't cleaned away each day then it will become a substance known as plaque. When this plaque develops and builds up it will eventually harden into difficult-to-remove tartar.
Tartar buildup along your dog's gumline 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 pet's periodontal disease continues to progress, the attachment between gums and teeth starts to become lost, which intensifies in stage three and becomes advanced periodontal disease in the fourth stage. The fourth stage of periodontal disease in dogs is characterized by receding gum tissue, loss of 50% of the attachment between teeth and gums, and exposure of tooth roots.
The typical symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs
While there may be little or no signs of early stage periodontal disease in dogs, when it reaches the later stages of gum disease you may start to notice symptoms such as:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Blood on chew toys or in water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Problems keeping food in mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
Periodontal disease can cause serious health complications and so it should be treated as soon as possible. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your dog could be experiencing significant chronic pain. Not only that, as with people, the bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel throughout your dog's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues such as heart disease.
The common causes of periodontal disease in dogs
The gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque which combines with other minerals and hardens into calculus (tartar) within just a few days. This calculus can be extremely difficult to remove once it has had a chance to form. Subsequently, the calculus will continue to build up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. At this stage, abscesses may begin to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth may start to loosen. In small and toy breeds it is not unusual for advanced periodontal disease to lead to jaw fractures.
Poor nutrition and diet can play a role in the development of periodontal disease in dogs. Other contributors to the development of periodontal disease in dogs can include dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and misalignment of teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more vulnerable to gum disease).
How periodontal disease in dogs is treated
If your dog is experiencing periodontal disease your vet will most likely begin by recommending professional dog dental cleaning as well as other treatments to try to manage the symptoms.
Your vet will determine the cost based on the various procedures that your dog may require. In order for your vet to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments required, the use of anesthesia will be necessary. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is an important step to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs should include:
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Circulating warm air to ensure patient remains warm while under anesthesia
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Any extractions that may be required, local anesthesia such as novocaine
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
The prevention of periodontal disease in dogs
As with most conditions, the best outcome for periodontal disease is dependent on how early the disease is detected and treated.
Don’t neglect your dog’s oral health. Just like people, dogs need regular dental appointments to help care for their oral hygiene and to identify any trouble spots before more serious issues develop. Your pup should visit your primary vet at every six months for an oral health evaluation. These twice yearly appointments will also provide you with an opportunity to ask your vet any questions you may have about caring for your pet's teeth at home.
Prevent problems from taking hold between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to prevent 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.