How to Stop & Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Periodontal disease can negatively impact your dog's oral health (along with her overall health and well-being). Here, our Tracy vets describe the disease and its symptoms. We also give tips on preventing and treating the condition. 

Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Just like in humans, periodontitis bacteria can silently invade a dog's mouth and infect the oral cavity. Typically, pooches won't show any signs or symptoms of periodontal disease until the condition has reached its advanced stages. However, gum disease can lead to chronic pain, gum erosion and even bone and tooth loss. The teeth's supportive structures can also be weakened or lost. 

Bacteria and food particles naturally build up along dogs' gumlines (also similar to ours). If teeth aren't regularly brushed, the accumulating plaque may develop and harden into calculus (tartar). This causes the gumline and surrounding areas to become irritated and inflamed — a condition referred to as gingivitis and the first stage of gum disease.

What are signs of periodontal disease in dogs?

At Paws & Claws Veterinary Hospital, we check for these hallmark symptoms of canine periodontitis during yearly dental cleanings and exams. You can also look for these at home:

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

By the time veterinarians or pet owners notice signs of advanced periodontitis, your dog may be suffering from significant chronic pain. If this is true for your dog, she may instinctively self-isolate to avoid showing weakness to predators. 

Unfortunately, periodontal disease does not impact your dog's mouth exclusively. This condition can lead to issues with other major organs throughout the body. Since bacteria can enter the bloodstream and surround the heart, this can also 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:

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

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 your dog due for an annual dental cleaning and exam? Contact us today to book an appointment