When dogs don't get the oral care they need, health issues such as periodontal disease can develop. Here, our Williamsburg vets explain the causes, signs, and treatment options for periodontal disease in dogs.
Periodontal Disease & Dogs
Periodontal disease is also referred to as gum disease or periodontitis. When this type of bacteria infects your dog's mouth, a variety of oral health issues can crop up. We typically won't see any obvious symptoms in dogs with early-stage periodontal disease.
However, when periodontal disease progresses to more advanced stages, painful and problematic symptoms begin to appear. These may include gum erosion, tooth loss, chronic pain, and even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth are weakened or lost.
Causes of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If bacteria is allowed to accumulate in your dog's mouth without being brushed away, it can develop into plaque and combine with other materials. Within a few days, it will harden into tartar, which can be more difficult to scrape away once it forms on your pooch's teeth.
Left untreated, tartar continues to build up and will eventually separate the gums from the teeth, resulting in pockets forming in the gums. This leaves fertile ground for bacteria to grow. It's during this stage that abscesses can start to form and deterioration of tissue and bone can occur. Your dog's teeth may even begin to loosen and fall out.
Advanced periodontal disease often leads to jaw fractures in small and toy breed dogs.
Poor diet and nutrition, excessive grooming habits, crowded teeth, and dirty toys can be contributing factors in the development of periodontal disease in dogs.
Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
During the early stages of periodontal disease, you may not notice any signs of periodontal disease, or there may only be minor clues. However, you may see one or more of the following symptoms if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease:
- Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Excessive drooling
- Weight loss
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Reduced appetite
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Loose or missing teeth teeth
Periodontal disease is a serious health concern for all dogs, and should be on both your and your vet's radar in terms of health issues to check for during your pup's annual wellness exams.
Once this disease reaches its advanced stages, your pooch may be suffering from significant chronic pain. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also travel through your pet's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to other serious medical issues, including heart disease.
How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If your pup is suffering from periodontal disease symptoms your vet might suggest a professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health condition.
The cost of your dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment needed and the individual vet.
For your vet to conduct a comprehensive examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments necessary, they will need to use anesthesia. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is also an important step to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).
Dental procedures for dogs typically include:
- Pre-anesthesia blood work
- Dental radiographs (X-rays)
- Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic, and oxygen
- Anesthesia monitoring
- IV catheter and IV fluids
- Circulating warm air to ensure the patient remains warm while under anesthesia
- Scaling, polishing, and lavage of gingival areas
- Pain medication during and post-procedure
- Extractions as required
Preventing Periodontal Disease In Dogs
Many pet parents want to know how they can prevent periodontal disease in dogs. Prevention is relatively easy, simply by caring for your dog's oral health, similar to how you would care for your own, you may be able to prevent your dog from developing periodontal disease.
Right from when your pup is young, be sure to pay close 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 dog 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 taking hold between appointments brush your dog’s teeth 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 canine friend displays 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.