Regrettably, lots of dogs at Southborough Veterinary Hospital end up dealing with gum disease, which we usually call periodontal disease. This problem can harm your furry friend's teeth and health. In this article, our vets will tell you what causes this disease in dogs and what you can do to stop it from happening.
Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Periodontitis, also called gum disease, occurs when your dog's teeth have too much plaque on them, which can lead to an infection. Similar to how cavities happen in people, dogs with gum disease usually don't show any clear signs until it's pretty advanced.
When you finally see the signs of gum disease, your dog may already feel a lot of pain in its mouth and could be in danger of losing its teeth.
What causes periodontal disease?
If you don't brush away plaque, which is like a thin film of bacteria, it will stick to your dog's teeth and turn into something called tartar.
If you don't do something about it, this tartar will keep piling up and make little pockets between your dog's gums and teeth, where bacteria can get stuck and cause an infection. When this happens, your dog might get abscesses, and their tissues and bones can start to break down. Sometimes, their teeth might even get wobbly and fall out.
In smaller dogs and those tiny toy breeds, having really bad gum problems can even lead to jaw fractures.
But it's not just about not taking care of their teeth. Bad doggie food can also make gum problems worse. And sometimes, having dirty toys, grooming too much, or having too many teeth crammed into their mouth can make things tricky for your furry friend.
Signs of Periodontal Disease
There are typically few or no signs of periodontal disease while the condition is 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 the water bowl
- Excessive drooling (that may contain blood)
- 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
As you can see, periodontal disease is a serious health concern. Besides affecting your dog's oral health, periodontal disease has been linked to other health conditions, such as heart disease. This is because the bacteria in your dog's mouth can spread through the bloodstream to other organs.
How To Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If your dog is showing signs of gum problems or tooth issues, your vet might suggest a few professional cleanings to remove the infection and remove tartar buildup. In more serious cases, your dog might even need a tooth extracted if the gum disease is advanced.
To make sure your vet can take a good look at your dog's teeth and gums and provide any needed treatments, they'll need to use anesthesia. Before the anesthesia, your vet may also do some blood tests to make sure your pet is healthy enough for the medication.
When it comes to dental procedures for dogs, here's what you can expect:
- Dental radiographs (X-rays)
- Tooth charting
- Tooth scaling and polishing
- Application of fluoride
- Application of a dental sealant
- Extractions as required (with local anesthesia such as novocaine)
- Pain medication during and post-procedure when required
How can I prevent my dog from developing periodontal disease?
Fortunately, periodontal disease can be prevented, treated, and even 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 keep your dog's teeth healthy and avoid gum problems, make sure you take care of your pup's mouth. Like us, our furry buddies should see the dentist regularly to ensure their mouths are clean and to find any problems before they get worse.
It would be best to take your dog to the vet for teeth cleaning at least once a year. The vet might suggest more visits if your dog already has early gum disease (called gingivitis) or other mouth issues.
Caring For Your Dog's Teeth at Home
To keep your dog's teeth healthy and avoid periodontal disease, make sure to brush your dog's teeth every day. This will help get rid of plaque and stop bacteria from growing. You can also give your dog special dental chews or fun-to-chew dental toys. These things are made to clean your dog's teeth while they chew on them.
If your dog starts showing signs of periodontal disease, like swollen or red gums, changes in appetite, or losing teeth, don't wait. Call your vet right away. Remember, dental problems in dogs can really hurt, so taking care of their teeth is important.
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.