Periodontal Disease in Dogs and How to Prevent It

A dog's oral health has a direct impact on their overall health, but many pet owners don't realize how important dental care is in preventing periodontal disease. Here, our Monroe vets explain how periodontal disease in dogs can be treated and prevented.

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 periodontal disease tend not to show any obvious symptoms.

However, once canine periodontal disease becomes more advanced painful and problematic symptoms will begin to become apparent. Some of these include chronic pain, tooth loss, gum erosion or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pup's teeth are 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 the course of a few days. Once tartar forms on your pup's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away.

If not removed, the tartar will continue to build up and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing spaces or pockets in the gums where bacteria can flourish. At this stage, abscesses may begin to form, tissue and bone deterioration can occur, and your dog's teeth may start to loosen and fall out.

In small and toy breed dogs advanced periodontal disease can lead 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?

During the early stages, there are few to no obvious signs. 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
  • Blood on chew toys or in water bowl
  • Excessive drooling
  • Avoiding one side of the mouth when chewing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Irritability
  • Problems keeping food in 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 to other parts of your pet's body via the bloodstream, which could potentially cause problems with major organs and lead to serious medical issues such as heart disease.

How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?

If your dog is showing symptoms of periodontal disease, your vet might recommend professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health problems.

In order for your veterinarian to be able to perform a thorough examination of your dog's teeth and gums, it will be necessary to administer anesthesia so that your pet is comfortable and does not experience undue stress during the exam or any required dental procedures. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is also an important step in order to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).

Dental procedures for dogs can include:

  • Dental radiographs (x-rays)
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • IV catheter and IV fluids
  • Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
  • Ensuring the patient maintains optimal body warmth while under anesthesia
  • Anesthesia monitoring
  • Scaling, polishing and lavage (rinsing out) of gingival areas
  • Extractions as required (with local anesthesia)
  • Medication for pain management during and after the procedure 

How can I prevent periodontal disease in my dog?

Many dog owners wonder how to care for their dog's teeth at home. 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 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 between appointments brush your dog’s teeth every day to get rid of plaque and prevent bacteria buildup. 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 dog is showing symptoms of periodontal disease like inflamed gums, changes in appetite, or the loss of one or more 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.

Concerned your pooch could have periodontal disease or another oral health condition? Contact our Monroe Vets today to book an examination for your dog.