Have you taken a good look at your dog’s teeth lately? Maybe you haven’t established or kept up a regular brushing routine, or perhaps you’ve fed your pup more treats than you realized. When your dog eagerly greets you at the door with whines, wiggles, and kisses, does her breath smell so terrible that you want to roll over and play dead? If these scenarios apply to your dog, she may have periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease in dogs is a common dental disease where food and bacteria build up between the teeth and gums to form plaque. The plaque eventually calcifies into tartar, causing the gums to separate from the teeth. Inflammation and infection then set in, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis.
Left untreated, periodontal disease results in the destruction of tooth roots, bone loss, and tooth loss. Almost 80% of all dogs have periodontal disease by age 2.
Thankfully, periodontal disease can be treated and reversed if caught early enough. Even better, you can take preventative steps now to keep your puppy’s pearly whites free from canine dental disease.
Periodontal Disease Symptoms
The symptoms of periodontal disease become more apparent as the disease progresses. That’s why checking your dog’s teeth regularly for any changes is critically important to identifying dog teeth problems in their earliest forms.
The most common symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs are:
- Bad breath
- Red, bleeding, or inflamed gums
- Excessive drooling
- Loss of appetite
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Ropey or bloody saliva
- Bumps or lumps in the mouth
- Difficulty picking up food
- Pus oozing from the gums
- Stained teeth
- Head shyness
- Reluctance to eat
- Loose teeth or loss of teeth
- Sneezing or nasal discharge
- Bone loss
Typically, these symptoms appear after the second stage of the disease, periodontitis, has begun. By that time, your dog may have been suffering in silence for a while. Periodontal disease in dogs can ultimately lead to jaw fractures and heart, liver, and kidney disease.
Periodontal Disease Causes
What causes periodontal disease? Gum disease in dogs is the direct cause of periodontal disease. Dog gingivitis forms when a buildup of bacteria and food causes plaque to develop between the gumline and the teeth. The plaque combines with minerals, resulting in calculus.
The development of calculus causes gum inflammation as the canine immune system fights the bacterial buildup. Eventually, the gums pull away from the teeth and bacteria begins to grow within those open pockets. Tissue and bone start deteriorating, abscesses form, and in the final stages, tooth and bone loss occurs.
Additional causes of periodontal disease include age, as senior dogs are more prone to developing this disease and more likely to have cancerous oral masses. Genetics is also a prominent factor as smaller breed dogs are more likely to develop periodontitis. Smaller dog breeds tend to have crowded teeth, offering a better breeding ground for bacteria, plaque, and calculus.
Diet may also play a role in periodontal disease in dogs. Poor nutrition accelerates gum disease as low-quality foods are often highly processed and manufactured, full of simple carbohydrates and high levels of sugars. Poor canine diets help create the perfect environment for bacteria in your pup’s mouth.
While some of these causes are beyond your control as a pet parent, there is one factor that you can change: neglecting your dog’s oral health.
Periodontal Disease Treatments (Veterinary Procedures and Medications)
In the early stages of periodontal disease in dogs, your veterinarian will place your dog under anesthesia, then fully clean the plaque on top of and below the gums. Any calculus growing there will be removed with an ultrasonic scaler, and the veterinarian will polish the teeth to fill in any pockets to prevent bacteria from developing there again.
For more advanced stages of this dental disease in dogs, thorough teeth cleaning may not be enough. Your veterinarian may need to perform these other procedures:
- Removing diseased tissue and teeth and smoothing root surfaces
- Removal of infected gums (gingivectomy)
- Extraction of cracked, loose, or dying teeth
If your dog has one or more of these procedures, she will need to be on an antibiotic for 1 - 3 weeks. For tooth extractions, pain medication may be required for a few days to keep your pup comfortable while her mouth and gums heal.
Periodontal Disease Treatment Costs
A professional canine dental cleaning costs an average of $292, although that does not take into account the price charged for anesthesia, typically the more expensive of the two procedures. Extractions or dental surgeries can cost upwards of $1000.
In the long run, you are likely to spend less on your dog’s veterinary bills if you are proactive in caring for her dental health. Our Prevention section will show you simple ways to make sure your pup and your pocketbook don’t absorb any expensive vet bills in the future.
Many pup parents wonder if dental coverage is included in their pet insurance policy. As with any type of insurance, oral health coverage of dog teeth disease is dependent on the insurance company and the policy you’ve purchased. A plan that does include some coverage of dental health procedures is likely to be more expensive than policies that don’t offer this option.
Those dog insurance that cover dental health typically do so only in certain situations, such as those involving extractions of milk teeth or external damage. Additionally, most companies won’t cover pre-existing dog teeth issues and problems. These processes are generally not covered by dog insurance policies:
- Routine cleaning of your dog’s teeth
- Cosmetic dental treatments
- General tooth decay
- Any dog teeth issues that the insurance company feels were preventable had you taken better care of your pup’s teeth
Make sure you have carefully checked all the fine print in any insurance policy you consider for your dog to ensure that the coverage you want or need for your canine companion is available if or when required.
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Natural Treatments and Remedies
There are some natural treatments or at-home remedies that may aid in the prevention or treatment of dog teeth disease. Here are some tried-and-true methods you may want to use for your dog:
- Mouthwash: You can purchase probiotic mouthwashes online or make your own at home with edible peppermint oil.
- Chlorhexidine rinse: As an antiseptic and disinfectant, chlorhexidine is an excellent and safe gingivitis rinse for dogs. It provides antibacterial benefits for 12 hours. Chlorhexidine rinses are available in most pet stores, or you can purchase it from your veterinarian.
- Water additives: Pet stores also sell water additive products, like Oxyfresh, which can be added to your dog’s water bowl to eliminate bad breath and detoxify bacteria. Water additives are odorless and tasteless, so your pup won’t turn her nose up at her water bowl.
- Aloe vera and hydrogen peroxide: Using a 1:1 formula, take one part aloe vera and one part 3% hydrogen peroxide and apply it to a cotton ball or swab. Rub the cotton swab along your dog’s teeth and gums once daily, preferably after your dog is done eating for the day. The peroxide is antiseptic and antibacterial and the aloe vera soothes sore gums.
Remember to check with your veterinarian before using any natural remedies or treatments on your dog’s teeth.
Canine Periodontal Disease Prevention
The best way to ensure that your pup never develops periodontal disease or other dog teeth issues is to be a proactive pup parent. These are steps you can take to help keep your dog’s teeth healthy.
1. Brush your dog’s teeth daily
Just as people need to brush their teeth every day for optimal oral health, so do dogs. Use patience, chicken or beef-flavored toothpaste (never use human toothpaste), and a gentle toothbrush to teach your dog that brushing is now a part of your daily schedule. If your dog resists brushing, try these tips to make the experience a more enjoyable one for her and you.
2. Feed your dog quality food
Talk to your veterinarian about a diet that is high quality and will benefit your dog’s dental needs. Some “dental diets” reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar and reduce the likelihood of gingivitis.
3. Give your dog safe chew toys and treats
Find safe chew-oriented toys or treats that clean your dog’s teeth while she is chewing on them. Chew toys and treats stimulate your dog to chew, causing the release of saliva to wash away bacteria and food debris. Chewing actions also keep your dog’s teeth clean by removing tartar and plaque; thus, the right type of toy or treat can help keep your dog’s teeth healthy.
4. Get your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned regularly
With your veterinarian’s guidance, put together a cleaning plan for your pup so she has her teeth professional routinely cleaned. Prevention is vital, and dental cleanings and x-rays will help you keep an eye on what’s going on in your dog’s mouth.
5. Enjoy that happy dog smile!
Care for your dog’s teeth as you would your own. Prevention and establishing good daily habits, like brushing your pup’s teeth, will go a long way toward making sure those teeth stay put, and your dog enjoys a long and happy life.
To review other common dog health problems, please review our robust post titled; 31 Common Dog Health Problems
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