Your dog’s oral health (along with her overall health and wellbeing) can be gravely impacted by periodontal disease. Here, our Pflugerville vets explain the disease and its symptoms, causes and treatment options. Plus, tips on how to prevent dental health issues.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Bacteria from periodontitis can infect your dog's mouth. The majority of the time, this disease creeps into the mouth without any noticeable symptoms or signs until it has advanced. However, gum disease can result in tooth and bone loss, chronic pain, and gum erosive disease. The structures that hold the teeth in place can also deteriorate or disappear.
When bacteria and food particles collect along the gum line and are not brushed away during a regular tooth brushing, they can develop into plaque and harden into calculus we know as tartar. This causes irritation and inflammation of the gum line and surrounding areas (the condition is also referred to as gingivitis). This represents the first stages of gum disease.
What are symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs?
There are some hallmark symptoms of canine periodontitis pet parents should watch for, including:
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Drop in appetite
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in water bowl or on chew toys
By the time signs of advanced periodontitis appear, your dog could be in significant chronic pain, during which our pets tend to instinctively self-isolate to keep from showing weakness to predators.
Unfortunately, periodontal disease doesn't just affect your dog's mouth; it can also affect other important organs and result in heart disease because oral bacteria can enter the bloodstream and settle near 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.
Diet and inadequate dietary intake, as well as environmental factors like grooming practices (does your dog frequently lick himself?, dirty toys, tooth alignment—dogs with crowded teeth are more prone to gum disease, etc.—and oral hygiene—can all affect whether your dog develops periodontal disease.
How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?
The cost of dental procedures such as teeth cleanings can vary greatly depending on your veterinarian's level of care, your pet's needs, and other factors. Before being put under anesthesia, your pet will need blood work to ensure she is healthy enough for the medication, which can cause problems in dogs with organ diseases.
Any dental procedure should include:
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Circulating warm air to ensure patient stays warm while under anesthesia
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- 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 dog’s oral health, don’t neglect it or procrastinate. Similar to their people, they require regular dental appointments to keep up with oral hygiene and identify any trouble spots. Your pup should go to the vet’s at least once each year to have her 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 specially for dogs).
There are also dental chews, dog food, and chew toys designed to treat dental disease and reduce tartar formation. But be warned: don't use these to replace brushing; instead, think of them as an addition to regular oral care). If you notice inflamed or swollen gums, missing teeth, or changes in your appetite, schedule an appointment right away.
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.