Your dog's oral health, in addition to their overall health and well-being, can be seriously impacted by periodontal disease. Here, our Apple Valley vets explain this disease and its symptoms, treatments and causes. Additionally, our vets provide some tips on how to prevent dental health issues.
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontitis bacteria can infect your pup's oral cavity, quietly building up in their mouth without causing any obvious signs or symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. However, conditions like gum disease can cause chronic pain, the loss of teeth and bone mass as well as erosion of the gums.
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 obvious and non-obvious symptoms associated with periodontal disease in dogs that you should watch out for like:
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Weight loss
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Excessive drooling
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Blood in water bowl or on chew toys
By the time signs of periodontitis start to appear, your dog could be in serious and chronic pain. When our pets are experiencing this discomfort, they will tend to self-isolate to avoid showing any weakness to predators.
Unfortunately, the affects of periodontal disease don’t stay confined to your dog’s mouth - the condition can cause issues with major organs and lead to heart disease, since bacteria from the mouth can enter the blood stream and settle in around 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.
Poor nutrition and dietary factors can also factor into your dog's potential development of periodontal disease, as do environmental factors like their grooming habits, how clean their toys are, the alignment of their teeth and their general oral hygiene.
How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?
The cost of dental procedures like tooth cleanings may widely vary depending on the degree of care provided by your vet, the unique needs of your pet and other factors too. Your dog will need to have blood work done before being put under anesthesia to make sure that she's healthy enough for medication that may cause issues for dogs with organ diseases or conditions.
Any dental procedure should include:
- A complete set of dental radiographs
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Local anesthesia such as novocaine, if any extractions are needed
- Anesthesia monitoring
- Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
- Pain medication during and after the procedure
- Circulating warm air to ensure patient stays warm while under anesthesia
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, make sure you don't neglect it or procrastinate at all. Just like in people, dogs require routine dental appointments in order to keep up with their oral hygiene and identify any possible emerging health issues. Your dog should visit the vet's office at least once every year in order to have their health and well-being 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 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.