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How to Stop & Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal disease can significantly impact your dog's oral health (along with his overall health and well-being). Today, our Flat Rock vets describe the disease and its symptoms, and how to prevent and treat the condition. 

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal disease can be a silent but serious foe, as periodontitis bacteria can quietly invade your dog's mouth and infect the oral cavity. Typically, dogs won't show symptoms until periodontal disease has advanced. 

That said, gum disease can still cause problems such as chronic pain, loss of teeth and bone and erosion of gums. Structures that support the teeth may also be weakened or lost. 

Similar to when humans deal with gum disease, food and bacteria can naturally build up on a dog's gum line. If this area isn't regularly brushed, plaque may develop and harden into tartar — also known as calculus. This leads to inflammation and irritation of the gum line and surrounding areas. The first stage of gum disease is a condition called gingivitis. 

Which symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs should I beware of?

Our vets Western Carolina Animal Hospital check for these well-known symptoms of canine periodontitis while performing annual dental cleanings and exams. You can also look for them at home:

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

Your dog may have been experiencing significant chronic pain by the time you or your vet spot signs of advanced periodontitis. If this is the case, pets tend to instinctively self-isolate to avoid showing weakness to predators.

Unfortunately, the negative effects of periodontal disease don't stop at your dog's mouth. The condition can lead to several issues with major organs in the body. Bacteria can get into the bloodstream, then get into the heart and cause heart disease. 

What causes periodontal disease?

Bacteria can collect in your dog’s mouth, develop into plaque and combine with other minerals. After it has hardened (usually within two to three days), calculus develops on the teeth and becomes more difficult to scrape away.

As the immune system fights the buildup of bacteria, reactions such as inflamed gums and more obvious signs of gum disease appear.

Poor nutrition and diet can also contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs, in addition to environmental factors such as dirty toys, alignment of teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more vulnerable to gum disease), oral hygiene and grooming habits (does your pup lick himself frequently?).

How is periodontal disease in dogs treated?

Costs of dental procedures such as teeth cleanings may vary widely depending on the level of care provided by your veterinarian, your pet’s needs, and other factors. Your pet will need to have blood work before being put under anesthesia to ensure she’s healthy enough for the medication, which can cause problems for dogs with organ diseases.

Any dental procedure should include:

  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • Anesthesia monitoring
  • A complete set of dental radiographs  
  • Circulating warm air to ensure patient stays warm while under anesthesia
  • IV catheter and IV fluids 
  • Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
  • Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
  • Pain medication during and after the procedure
  • Local anesthesia such as novocaine, if any extractions are needed

How can I prevent my dog from getting periodontal disease?

Fortunately, we pet parents can prevent our pooches from getting periodontal disease, and the condition can be treated and reversed - if detected early.

When it comes to your dog’s oral health, don’t neglect it or procrastinate. Similar to their people, they require regular dental appointments to keep up with oral hygiene and identify any trouble spots. Your pup should see the vet at least once each year to have her oral health evaluated.

You’ll also have the chance to ask any questions you may have regarding at-home care, and find out how often your pet should come in for professional teeth cleanings (as those with issues may need to come more frequently).

Prevent issues from developing into unmanageable situations between appointments by doing a daily brushing of your dog’s teeth to prevent bacteria and plaque from getting a foothold (choose a toothpaste made specially for dogs).

There are also dental chews, dog food and chew toys designed to address dental disease and reduce tartar development. But fair warning: don’t try to replace brushing with these - think of them as an add-on to regular oral care). If you notice inflamed or swollen gums, missing teeth or even appetite changes, book an appointment immediately.

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.

Is it time for your dog's annual dental appointment? Contact Western Carolina Animal Hospital to book a cleaning and exam. Our vets are passionate about providing your pet with the care they need.

Hands spreading dogs lips so teeth can be examined

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