Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Dental care is an extremely important part of your pet’s overall health. Proper dental hygiene can do so much more than just reduce bad breath! It also reduces tooth loss, improves health, oral hygiene and increases longevity.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease in dogs is the inflammation or infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth. This includes the gums, the periodontal ligament (a structure that holds teeth in place), and the jaw bone.
With those structures affected, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, pain, and even (in severe cases) fractures of the jaw!
Plus, the bacteria that grow from periodontal disease can enter the bloodstream via inflamed gums (gingivitis), and then travel to the heart or kidneys where they can cause disease of those important organs.
So, you can see why periodontal disease is something you want to avoid in your pup!
Periodontal disease is caused by the gathering of dental plaque on the teeth. Plaque can be removed by tooth brushing, but over time it hardens to tartar, which requires a full dental scaling by a professional to remove..
Tartar causes inflammation, and it harbors bacteria. And unfortunately, once periodontal disease starts, a lot of the damage to your dog’s mouth is irreversible.
Is periodontal disease very common?
Periodontal disease is extremely common in dogs over three years old. Over 68% of dogs this age suffer from some degree of periodontitis.
What are signs of this disease?
Signs to look out for in your pooch include:
- Bad breath
- Red or bleeding gums
- Visible tartar on the teeth (gray or yellow, concrete-looking buildup)
- Broken or missing teeth
- Bleeding in the mouth
- Change in behavior
- Unusual discharge from the mouth
- Teeth grinding
- Excessive drooling
- Trouble eating or swallowing (this might not be obvious: it could present as your buddy having a decreased appetite, or picking up food from the bowl and dropping it)
If you notice any of these signs in your pet, consult your veterinarian immediately for an appointment.
How can I treat my dog for periodontal disease?
Treatment will be based on the severity of your dog's dental disease. For most dogs, a full dental procedure (full scaling and polishing under anesthesia) will be recommended.
For some dogs, a dental procedure will be all that’s needed, especially if your dog is only in the early stages of periodontal disease (gingivitis or inflamed gums, but no loose or damaged teeth).
Other dogs, in addition to their cleaning, will require one or more dental extractions (which means removing diseased teeth).
Sometimes, the need for tooth extractions is easy to determine at your dog’s physical exam or dental checkup—say, if the tooth is obviously loose, infected, and painful.
However, in many cases, the decision to remove a tooth will be made during the dental procedure, when your veterinarian is able to probe the tooth and evaluate the health of the root via dental radiographs. In that case, the vet can inform you of the possibility ahead of time or call you during your dog’s procedure to discuss the treatment plan.
If your dog already has affected teeth that need to be removed, don’t worry—this will actually slow down the spread of periodontal disease and make your pup much more comfortable.
Severely diseased or affected teeth will eventually fall out on their own anyway, since periodontal disease attacks the structures that hold the teeth in place. It’s different from a cavity for human beings in that regard, so trying to save the tooth won’t work and will only prolong discomfort for a dog.
On the other hand, removing an affected tooth will provide some much needed relief. You may even notice that your dog is eating better and has a spring in their step after the dental procedure.
Then, by providing home dental care, you can help prevent periodontal disease from occurring again...
What can I do at home?
Daily brushing of your pup’s teeth will help to reduce plaque buildup inside the mouth. It’s important to use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs (human toothpaste can be toxic to pets).
In addition to at-home care, make sure to schedule regular dental checkups with us at Bond Vet. Dental examinations allow us to catch developing issues early and address them before they become a problem.
That way, we can work together to keep your dog’s mouth comfortable and healthy, and smelling much better!