The oral health of a dog has a direct impact on their overall health, but many of our canine companions do not receive the dental care they require to avoid oral health problems like periodontal disease. Our Boulder County veterinarians explain how to treat and prevent periodontal disease in dogs.
What is 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 the periodontal disease tend not to show any obvious symptoms.
However, as your dog's periodontal disease progresses, painful and problematic symptoms such as chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion, and even bone loss will emerge as the supporting structures of your dog's teeth become weakened or lost.
What causes periodontal disease in dogs?
The gradual buildup of bacteria in your dog’s mouth develops into plaque then combines with other minerals and gradually hardens into tartar over a few days. Once tartar forms on your pup's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away.
Tartar will continue to build up if left untreated, pulling the gums away from the teeth and creating pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. Abscesses may form, tissue and bone deterioration may occur, and your dog's teeth may loosen and fall out at this point.
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.
How can I tell if my dog has periodontal disease?
When periodontal disease is in its early stages, there are usually few or no symptoms; however, if your dog has 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 the water bowl
- Excessive drooling
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Reduced appetite
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Problems keeping food in the mouth
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” 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.
How do you treat periodontal disease in dogs?
If your pooch 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 periodontal disease.
The cost of your dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment required and the individual vet.
Anesthesia will be required for your veterinarian to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any necessary treatments. (Pre-anesthesia blood tests are also necessary to determine whether your pet is healthy enough to be given 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 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?
Many pet parents wonder how to prevent periodontal disease in dogs. Prevention is relatively easy, simply by caring for your dog's oral health, much the way you care for your own, you may be able to prevent your dog from developing periodontal disease.
Right from when your pooch 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 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.
Brush your dog's teeth daily to remove plaque and prevent bacteria from forming between appointments to avoid problems. To help address dental disease and reduce tartar buildup, you may want to give your dog specially formulated dental chews and dog food, as well as specially designed toys.
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.