Your dog's dental and overall health can be negatively impacted by periodontal disease. In today's post, our Middlesex vets discuss periodontal disease in dogs, and how you can keep your canine friend's mouth healthy.

What is periodontal disease in dogs?

Also referred to as periodontal disease or gum disease, periodontitis is a type of bacteria that can infect your dog's mouth and begin to cause numerous oral and general health issues. Similar to tooth decay in people, dogs with periodontal disease usually won't show any obvious symptoms until the condition reaches more advanced stages. 

When dogs to start to show symptoms of the condition, they may already be suffering from ongoing pain, gum erosion, tooth loss or even bone loss as the structures supporting your dog's teeth weaken and become lost. 

Why does my dog have periodontal disease?

Bacteria can gradually build up in your dog's mouth and develop into plaque, which combines with other minerals and starts to harden into tartar within a few days. Tartar will be more difficult to scrape away once it's started to form on your dog's teeth. 

Left untreated, tartar continues to accumulate and will eventually separate the gums from the teeth, causing pockets to form in the gums. This is a ripe area for bacteria to grow and infect the mouth. This is when abscesses can also begin to form and bone and tissue deterioration can occur. Your dog's teeth may also begin to loosen and fall out. 

Advanced periodontal disease can also lead to jaw fractures in small and toy breed dogs. 

Poor diet and nutrition can also contribute to the development of periodontal disease in some dogs. Other contributing factors may include crowded teeth, dirty toys and excessive grooming habits. 

What are the signs of periodontal disease in dogs?

In the early stages of periodontal disease, dogs typically show few or no outward symptoms. But as the condition progresses to advanced stages, you might notice one or more of these symptoms:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Loose or missing teeth teeth
  • Blood on chew toys or in the water bowl
  • Excessive drooling
  • Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Irritability
  • Problems keeping food in the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody or “ropey” saliva

Periodontal disease is a serious health issue for dogs. Once the condition reaches its advanced stages, your dog may be experiencing significant chronic pain and other problems.

Bacteria can grow in your dog's mouth and travel through the body's internal systems, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical issues, including heart disease. 

How is periodontal disease treated in dogs?

If your dog is developing or suffering from the symptoms of periodontal disease your Middlesex vets may recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.

The cost of your dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment required and the individual vet. 

Many pet owners have questions about how to treat periodontal disease in dogs, and what precautions we take to ensure their pet's appointment runs as expected - smoothly and safely.

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 to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).

Dental procedures for dogs typically include:

  • IV catheter and IV fluids
  • Dental radiographs (x-rays)
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic, and oxygen
  • Circulating warm air to ensure the patient remains warm while under anesthesia
  • Anesthesia monitoring
  • Scaling, polishing, and lavage of gingival areas
  • Extractions as required (with local anesthesia such as novocaine)
  • Pain medication during and post-procedure

How can I prevent my dog from developing periodontal disease?

Fortunately, periodontal disease can be prevented, treated, and reversed if it is detected in its early stages. There are two key approaches to caring for your dog's oral health. 

Professional Cleanings & Dental Exams for Your Dog

To help prevent periodontal disease in your dog, be sure not to neglect your dog's oral health. Just like people, your dog needs regular dental appointments to keep their oral hygiene in order and to identify any issues that may be arising before more serious issues develop.

Your dog's dental appointments at the vet are just like taking your dog to see a dentist. It is recommended that most dogs see the vet about every six months for an oral health evaluation.

These appointments provide you with an opportunity to speak to your vet about any concerns you may have about your dog's teeth or overall health. 

Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home

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 supply your dog with fun-to-chew dental care toys to help address dental disease and reduce the buildup of tartar.

If your dog is showing signs of periodontal disease such as swollen or inflamed gums, appetite changes, or missing teeth, book an appointment with your vet as soon as possible. Remember that oral health issues in dogs can be very painful.

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.

Are you concerned about your dog's oral health? We provide canine dental care and can answer any questions.  Contact our Middlesex vets to schedule a dental checkup.