A dog's oral health directly affects their overall health, but unfortunately, many of our canine companions suffer from periodontal disease due to inadequate dental healthcare. Here, our Eastham vets explain how periodontal disease in dogs can be treated and prevented.
Canine Periodontal Disease
Periodontitis, also called gum disease or periodontal disease, is a form of bacteria that can infect your pet’s mouth and lead to a variety of oral health issues. In the early stages, dogs with periodontal disease tend not to show any obvious symptoms.
Once canine periodontal disease becomes more advanced, painful and problematic symptoms will begin to become apparent. These include chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth are weakened or lost.
Causes Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs
Bacteria gradually build up in your dog's mouth, developing into plaque before combining with other minerals and gradually hardening into tartar over the course of a few days. Once tartar forms on your pup's teeth, it becomes more difficult to remove.
When left untreated the tartar 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 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.
Signs Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs
There are typically little or no signs of periodontal disease while it's 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 water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Irritated or bleeding gums
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Weight loss
- Bloody or thicker saliva
Periodontal disease is a serious health concern for our dogs. Once the disease reaches the advanced stages your canine companion could be experiencing significant chronic pain, but that's not all.
The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel throughout your pet's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues such as heart disease.
Treatment Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs
If your dog 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.
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 in order to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
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 rinsing out (lavage) of gingival areas
- Extractions as required (with local anesthesia such as novocaine)
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
Preventing Periodontal Disease In Dogs
Prevention is relatively easy! By routinely taking care of your dog's oral health (as you should with your own) you may be able to prevent your dog from developing periodontal disease.
Starting when your pooch is young, pay attention to your dog’s oral health. Like people, dogs need regular dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in check and to identify any trouble spots before more serious issues develop.
Your pooch should see the vet at least once a year for an oral health examination and cleaning. Regular dental appointments for your dog provide you with an opportunity to speak to your vet about any concerns you may have about your pup's teeth or overall health.
To prevent problems from developing between appointments, brush your dog’s teeth at least a few times a week (ideally 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 specially designed toys to help address dental disease and reduce the buildup of tartar.
If your pooch is displaying symptoms of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.
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.