How to Stop & Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Many dogs don't get the oral care their mouths need, which can lead to oral health issues like periodontal disease. In this article, our Novato vets list the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for periodontal disease in dogs. 

Periodontal Disease & Dogs

Also referred to as gum disease or periodontitis, periodontal disease is a type of bacteria that can infect your dog's mouth and trigger various oral health problems. Dogs with early-stage periodontal disease don't typically display any obvious symptoms. 

Once periodontal disease advances, symptoms typically become painful and problematic. Noticeable symptoms may include gum erosion, chronic pain, tooth loss, or even bone loss as the supporting structures of your pooch's teeth are weakened or lost. 

Causes of Periodontal Disease

Bacteria gradually build up in your dog's mouth and if not brushed away, will develop into plaque over time. The plaque then combines with other minerals and hardens into tartar. Once tartar forms on your pooch's teeth, it becomes more difficult to scrape away. 

Left untreated, the tartar will continue to accumulate and eventually pull the gums away from the teeth, causing pockets in the gums where bacteria can grow. This is when abscesses can start to form, tissue and bones may deteriorate, and your dog's teeth may start to loosen and fall out. In small and toy breed dogs, advanced periodontal disease often leads to jaw fractures. 

Development of periodontal disease in some dogs may also be related to poor nutrition and diet. Other contributing factors may include excessive grooming habits, dirty toys, and crowded teeth. 

Signs of Periodontal Disease

Symptoms of early-stage periodontal disease in dogs are typically minor or non-existent. However, you may notice one or more of these signs if your dog is suffering from advanced periodontal disease: 

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

Periodontal disease is a serious health threat to all dogs. Prevention is relatively easy. Care for your dog's oral health similar to how you would care for your own and you may be able to prevent your dog from developing periodontal disease. 

The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can also migrate through your pet's body and potentially cause problems with major organs, which may lead to heart disease and other serious medical issues. 

How to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs

If your pup is suffering from periodontal disease symptoms your vet might suggest a professional cleaning or other treatments depending on the severity of your dog's oral health condition.

The cost of your dog's dental care will vary depending on the treatment needed and the individual vet.

For your vet to conduct a comprehensive examination of your dog's teeth and gums, as well as any treatments necessary, they will need to use anesthesia. (Pre-anesthesia blood work is also an important step to determine whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia medications).

Dental procedures for dogs typically include:

  • Pre-anesthesia blood work
  • Dental radiographs (X-rays)
  • Endotracheal intubation, inhaled anesthetic, and oxygen
  • Circulating warm air to ensure the patient remains warm while under anesthesia
  • Anesthesia monitoring
  • IV catheter and IV fluids
  • Scaling, polishing, and lavage of gingival areas
  • Pain medication during and post-procedure
  • Extractions as required

Preventing Periodontal Disease In Dogs

Many pet parents want to know how they can prevent periodontal disease in dogs. Prevention is relatively easy, simply by caring for your dog's oral health, similar to how you would care for your own, you may be able to prevent your dog from developing periodontal disease.

Be sure to pay close attention to your dog's oral health starting when your pup is young. Like people, dogs should see the vet regularly for dental appointments to keep their oral health in check. Your vet can also 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 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 and reduce the buildup of tartar.

If your canine friend displays 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. 

Is your dog displaying signs of periodontal disease? Contact our team at South Novato Animal Hospital today to book a dental examination and cleaning.