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 O’Fallon 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 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?

Over the course of a few days, bacteria in your dog's mouth builds up into plaque, which then combines with other minerals and hardens into tartar. When tartar forms on your dog's teeth, scraping it away becomes more difficult.

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.

Jaw fractures are common in small and toy breed dogs with advanced periodontal disease.

Poor nutrition and diet have been linked to the development of periodontal disease in dogs in some cases. Dirty toys, excessive grooming habits, and crowded teeth are all factors that can contribute to the development of periodontal disease in dogs.

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
  • Irritability
  • Problems keeping food in the mouth
  • Weight loss
  • Bloody or “ropey” saliva

For our dogs, periodontal disease is a serious health concern. Your canine companion may experience significant chronic pain once the disease has progressed to the advanced stages, but that's not all.

Periodontal disease bacteria can spread throughout your pet's body, potentially causing problems with major organs and leading to serious medical problems like heart disease.

What is the Treatment for Dogs with Periodontal Disease?

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 oral health problems.

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. In the early stages, when it's only gingivitis, periodontal disease in dogs is reversible.

Pay close attention to your dog's oral health from the time he or she is a puppy. Dogs, like people, require regular dental visits to keep their oral hygiene in check and to identify any potential problems before they become more serious.

At least once a year, take your dog to the vet for an oral health examination and cleaning. Regular dental appointments for your dog allow you to discuss any concerns you may have about your dog's teeth or overall health with your veterinarian.

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 specially designed toys to help address dental disease in dogs and reduce the buildup of tartar.

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.

Do you think that your dog may have periodontal disease or another oral health condition? Contact our O’Fallon vets today to book an examination for your four-legged friend.