Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases that affects dogs and is pretty easy to spot and prevent. It is considered an extremely severe disease in untreated cases, as it can end up causing irreversible damage to your dog’s teeth.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is the inflammation of the structures of the mouth as a result of a bacterial infection. This disease has several stages and is extremely preventable!
The first stage is merely a build-up of sticky plaque on the teeth and the development of tartar deposits (also known as calculus), as well as inflamed gums. Plaque and tartar are conditions we can suffer from and tartar is fairly easy to spot on your dog’s teeth as it is yellow or brown in color. If left untreated this can progress to gingivitis (gum disease). Gingivitis is where the gums are in state of permanent inflammation due to the bacterial build-up in the teeth.
If no action is taken the disease can then become full blown periodontal disease, which can cause irreversible damage. At this stage in the disease a dog can suffer a 25-30% loss of attachment in the affected teeth making them loose. When this happens spaces form under the teeth, creating a breeding ground for more bacteria. This can lead to bone loss, tooth loss, tissue destruction in the gums and the build-up of pus in the cavities between the gums and teeth. In extreme cases the weakening of the jaw can result in a jaw fracture from a surprisingly small amount of pressure.
The final stage is considered to be severe periodontis, marked by bone or tooth loss in the animal. In this case, there is at least a 50% loss of attachment in the affected teeth, and the gum tissue is usually receding and exposing the roots of the teeth.
What makes this a common health issue in dogs?
Periodontal disease occurs far more commonly in dogs than in humans, due to their mouths being more alkaline than ours. On top of this, your dog may be more susceptible to periodontal disease if they:
- Have a wider mouth with irregularly positioned teeth.
- Are a short-faced breed of dog, such as the English and French Bulldog, Shih tzu or Pug.
- Are genetically predisposed to gum disease. Some dogs, such as the Yorkshire terrier, Chihuahua and poodle are genetically more likely to develop periodontal disease, regardless of life stage.
How can I spot signs of periodontal disease?
It’s quite unusual for pet owners to notice early signs of gum disease in their dog, and usually by the time it is noticeable the disease can be quite advanced. As the disease in its late stages is almost irreversible, it is important to get your dog’s teeth checked at least once every 6 months by your vet. You can look for signs of the disease between veterinarian visits, so it is caught as early as possible. Watch out for signs such as:
- Swollen or reddened gums
- yellow or brown teeth and loose or missing teeth
- Smelly breath
- A loss of appetite or trouble eating and weight loss
How can you prevent periodontal disease?
The best way to combat gum disease is to fight to prevent it in the first place.
Visiting your veterinarian for regular checks and building good habits early on could save you and your furry friend no end of woe down the line!
Brush your dog’s teeth
While many may think that brushing your dog’s teeth may be uncomfortable for your dog, many dogs enjoy it as a new form of attention. If your dog does not enjoy it, consider building in a reward system to make it more manageable.
Be sure to use special toothpaste that is formulated for dogs, as they have different mouth chemistry from humans!
Visit your local veterinary practice regularly
Get regular checks and some practices offer a professional dental cleaning service so talk to your local practice about how to arrange a session for your dog.
Toys and Treats
Give your dog chew toys. The chewing action will help prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar. Some chew treats come treated with enzymes specifically added to help reduce the formation of tartar, so they can be helpful. However, these toys should not replace brushing, but they are a good supplementary form of care for your pet, as well as a great treat!
It is possible to purchase dog food that has been specifically formulated to help fight dental disease and if needed your vet will be able to advise you on what to buy.