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Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Signs & Treatment

Not only can periodontal disease in dogs negatively affect your dog's oral health, but it can also impact their general health and well-being. Here, our vets in New York describe the disease and its causes, symptoms and options for treatment. 

Tooth Loss & Gum Disease

Periodontitis is a bacteria that can silently invade your dog's mouth and attack the oral cavity. While your pup may not show pervasive signs or symptoms until the disease is in its advanced stages, early detection and treatment is key to restoring oral health. 

Gum disease can gradually worsen and cause more obvious symptoms that impact the functioning of your dog's mouth and his or her quality of life, in addition to health: tooth or bone loss, chronic pain or erosion of gums may happen. The teeth's supporting structures may also be weakened or lost. 

Much like in humans, when dogs eat bacteria and food particles accumulate along the gum line. If they are not regularly brushed away with daily tooth brushing, plaque can soon develop and harden into tartar (calculus). 

This can then lead to the first stages of gum disease as the gum line and surrounding areas become irritated and inflamed (a condition referred to as gingivitis). 

Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Symptoms of canine periodontitis in dogs can include:

  • Bad breath
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Excessive drooling
  • Irritability 
  • Weight loss 
  • Bloody or "ropey" saliva
  • Missing teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood in water bowl or on chew toys

If the symptoms above have become more apparent, there is a good chance that your dog is suffering from chronic pain. If your pooch is exhibiting symptoms of periodontal disease, contact your vet to schedule an examination. 

Periodontal Disease & Your Dog's General Health

Unfortunately, because your dog's dental health is closely linked to their overall physical health, the effects of periodontal disease don’t stay confined to the mouth - periodontitis can begin to cause issues in other major organs and may lead to heart disease. This is because bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and surround the heart.

Causes of Canine Periodontal Disease

Inside your dog's mouth, bacteria can develop into plaque, which combines with other minerals and hardens into calculus within two to three days. This tartar that forms on the teeth is more difficult to scrape away.

As the immune system fights this buildup of bacteria, reactions such as inflamed gums and more prevalent signs of gum disease can occur.

Poor nutrition and diet can contribute to the development of periodontal disease, as can environmental factors such as grooming habits, crowded teeth, dirty toys, and oral hygiene.

How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Costs of dental procedures can vary widely, depending on the particular services your veterinarian provides, your pet’s requirements, and other factors. Blood work will be required prior to dental treatment in order to ensure your pup is healthy enough to handle the general anesthetic, which can cause problems for dogs with organ issues.

The following items are typically included in the price of your dog's dental procedure:

  • Complete set of dental radiographs (X-rays)
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • IV fluids and IV catheter
  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic and oxygen
  • Scaling, polishing and lavage of gingival areas
  • Circulation of warm air to keep pet warm while under anesthesia
  • Monitoring while under anesthesia
  • If any extractions are needed, local anesthesia such as novocaine
  • Pain medication during and after the procedure

Preventing Dog Periodontal Disease

Fortunately, you can help to prevent your pooch from developing periodontal disease, and the condition can be treated and reversed if caught in its early stages. When looking after your dog’s oral health, be proactive - don’t neglect it or procrastinate on consulting your vet or scheduling regular appointments.

Similar to their humans, dogs need regular dental checkups to maintain oral hygiene and identify any developing issues. Your pup should attend checkups with the vet at least annually to have their oral health assessed. You’ll also have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about at-home care, and find out how often your pet should attend professional teeth cleanings (those with issues often need to come more frequently).

Prevent issues from developing between appointments by brushing your dog’s teeth daily to prevent plaque and bacteria from developing. Dog-specific toothpastes are available that not only help to clean your pup's teeth, but also make each brushing session a pleasure for your pooch. Chew toys, special dog food and dental chews designed to address or prevent dental disease and reduce tartar buildup.

However, be warned that these don’t replace brushing - consider them an add-on to your pet’s regular oral care routine. If you notice swollen or inflamed gums. loose or missing teeth, or decreased appetite, book an appointment with your vet right away.

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.

Does your dog have dental issues that need treatment, or is he or she due for a checkup? Contact our New York vets to book an appointment.

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