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Periodontal (gum) disease in dogs

What is periodontal disease?
Gingivitis - the first stage
How does untreated gingivitis progress to periodontal disease in dogs?
Characteristics signs of periodontal disease in dogs
Photos and descriptions of the 4 stages of periodontal disease in dogs
Periodontal disease treatment in dogs
Top 10 dog breeds prone to progressive periodontal disease

What is periodontal disease?

The word periodontal comes from two Greek words that mean "around the tooth". Periodontal disease in dogs occurs in two forms - gingivitis and periodontitis

Gingivitis

If caught early and treated correctly the condition is generally reversible.

Periodontitis develops as a progression of untreated gingivitis, whereby gingivitis has advanced to the point whereby the deeper structures supporting the dog's teeth have become inflamed and or pussy.

Periodontal disease in dogs is one of the most common causes of infectious diseases in the world of dogs, and is the leading cause of both tooth and bone loss. Once teeth and bone loss has occurred the condition is irreversible.

In human dentistry, periodontal disease is called the "silent killer" due to its insidious and destructive nature. The same name can be aptly applied in the world of animals.

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How does untreated gingivitis progress to periodontal disease in dogs?

The tissue covering the outside of the roots of teeth is called "cementum". Cementum along with the surrounding connective tissues of the periodontal membranes, hold and support teeth in their sockets. This works perfectly, until infection and inflammation of the early stages of gingivitis become part of the equation

Gum infections attack the periodontal membranes, and over time if not treated the infection becomes worse and worse. Eventually the dog's teeth become involved and infected by the entry of bacteria through the apexes of their roots.

At this stage, teeth begin to loosen and or abscess and eventually they detach and fall out. This is an horrendously painful process for your dog and should never be allowed to happen.

Once infection has progressed to the point of periodontal disease, bacteria can enter the blood­stream and cause the spread of other oral related bacterial infections to other organs of the dog's body, including brain, heart, kidney, lungs and liver.

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Characteristics signs of periodontal disease in dogs

  • Severe halitosis or foul smelling breath.
  • Severe and constant throbbing pain.
  • Dribbling and or drooling.
  • Whimpering while eating.
  • Difficulty or reluctance to eat.
  • A thick build up of yellowy-brown calculus covering the teeth surfaces.
  • Red and inflamed gums, especially at the teeth/gum margins.
  • Bleeding and suppurating (pus filled) gums.
  • Teeth extrusion (partially out of their sockets), loose teeth or loss of teeth.
  • Ruptured abscesses which can cause maxillary (upper jaw) sinus or nasal cavity pus discharges.
  • Depression.
  • Mandibular (lower jaw) fractures in the most advanced cases.

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Photos and descriptions of the 4 stages of periodontal disease in dogs

The above images and descriptions are with the courtesy of Prairie View Animal Hospital.

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Periodontal disease treatment in dogs

The dog's teeth should be professionally cleaned by your vet, together with a course of antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the periodontal disease, teeth may need to be extracted and or a gingivectomy procedure done.

As already stated above, periodontal disease in dogs is rarely reversible and to maintain the degree of dental health that your vet established by cleaning your dog's teeth it is essential that you:

  • Start regular 6-12 monthly dental checks by your family vet for the rest of its life
  • Dedicated home oral care on the part of YOU the owner, including cleaning its teeth at least once a day
  • Introduce soft raw bones into your dog's diet, e.g., soft brisket bones or chicken's necks

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Top 10 dog breeds prone to progressive periodontal disease

Progressive periodontal disease in dogs is a term used to describe dogs which need to have their teeth cleaned and their gums treated by a veterinarian at least once a year - in addition to having their teeth cleaned daily by their owners.

If your budget cant stretch to spending between $900 - $1,200 per year on your dog's oral health, please consider a different breed from those listed below.

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