Explaining Periodontal Disease in Dogs

February just happens to be Pet Dental Health Month, which makes it an even better time to start learning about your dog’s teeth; how to care about them and periodontal disease. When it comes to your dog’s teeth, they really aren’t any different than human teeth. They require care just like ours; brushing, cleanings, and check-ups. They can develop dental caries, gingivitis and periodontal disease just like us. If you don’t take care of your dog’s teeth, the biggest end result and issue is periodontal disease, which can be harmful and cause other health issues for your dog. Keep reading to learn more about this dental problem that many dogs fall victim to, due to lack of proper dental care.

What’s periodontal disease in dogs?

If your dog develops periodontal disease, he is at risk of developing infection in his mouth that may lead to the loss of a tooth or teeth. The owner of Gentle Touch Animal Hospital in Denver, Colorado, Missy Tasky, DVM, says that it can also lead to other health issues of a dog’s body, such as heart and kidney problems, and cause a negative effect on your dog’s overall quality of life.

Causes of Periodontal disease in dogs

After meals, little bits of food stick to the teeth, and these food particles that get left behind, coupled with bacteria, will collect on the gum line. Over time, between the food and the bacteria, the two form what is known as plaque, which is a soft and sticky film that coats your dog’s teeth. When plaque is left on the teeth, eventually it hardens into calculus, which is most often recognized as something known as tartar. Tartar is hard and calcified, and when this forms along the gum line of a dog’s mouth (and humans), it leads to gingivitis.  Gingivitis is a problem that causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed. It’s painful and makes it difficult for your dog to eat. As bad as this sounds, it can turn to periodontitis, which is identified as tissue and bone loss in a dog’s mouth, and can become infected. When it gets to this point, your dog is at risk of losing a tooth or multiple teeth, depending on how bad the condition has become and the damage it’s done.

Can dogs get cavities?

Although the answer is yes, it is rare that dogs get cavities, with one main reason; dogs do not consume much sugar, which is the primary cause of cavities in humans. What dogs can develop, however, and it’s similar to cavities, is a resorptive lesion. Even still, this is also rare for dogs to get, too.

Symptoms of periodontal disease in a dog

There are a number of symptoms that might help you know if your dog has developed periodontal disease. One of the most common is bad breath. You might think dogs naturally have bad breath, but that is a myth. Your dog should not have bad breath if he is healthy and his mouth is healthy. You might also notice red, swollen gums bleeding gums, excessive drooling, and showing signs of pain in his mouth. He may paw at his mouth more or refuse to eat and chew. If your dog does try to eat, he may start to make noises that show he is hurting when he eats. If any of these occur, it’s important to get him seen by his vet as soon as possible.

Diagnosing periodontal disease

Your dog’s vet will do a thorough exam of your dog’s mouth. He will check his teeth and gums and may perform dental X-rays. The X-rays are an important part of diagnostic efforts because the can below the gums where a doctor cannot see with the naked eye. Once your vet determines it is periodontal disease, he will want to a very in-depth cleaning on your dog’s teeth, which means he will need to be put under general anesthesia.

You shouldn’t be nervous about your dog having anesthesia. It is the best way to do all the work that needs to be done to get your dog’s mouth healthy and pain free, especially since your vet will need to get below the gum line to clean, not to mention the risk of needing to remove a tooth. You want your pet to be as comfortable during this procedure, and this is the best way to keep him comfortable. Any concerns about anesthesia should be directed to your vet so that he can answer all your questions and put your mind at ease.

Prevention of periodontal disease

Once your vet has your pup’s teeth cleaned and taken care of, the key will be to keep the teeth clean from that point forward. You will want to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Brushing will help to remove plaque, but tartar, the very hard substance, can only be removed by a veterinarian who does a deep, professional cleaning. Plaque can develop in about a 24 hour period, which is why it is very important to get into a daily brushing routine. You want to stop the plaque and tartar process before it starts.

Final words

Always be sure to use toothbrushes and toothpastes that are pet friendly. Never use human toothpaste, and be sure to have your pet’s teeth and mouth checked by a vet on a regular basis so they can monitor and follow your dog’s teeth and dental issues closely. A healthy diet that can include healthy treats are recommended for your dog, as well as dental chews that can help clean the teeth, remove plaque, and stimulate the gums. Keeping your dog’s mouth and teeth happy and healthy means a happier, healthier dog that will give you years and years of love and companionship.

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