Your dog is probably not particularly bothered about having shiny white teeth so that they can impress other dogs. But while they might not be gunning for that ‘Hollywood smile,” that does not mean that you don’t need to worry about how their teeth are cared for. In fact, having healthy teeth is even more important for dogs – seeing as their mouths are the main way they interact with the world in lieu of opposable thumbs…
With that in mind, it’s crucial for your dog’s happiness that you know how to look out for and prevent conditions like periodontal disease. There are reasons you should be thankful for your dog, and it is time to return the favor by preventing that disease from getting worse.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is simply a blanket term that describes inflammation of a dog’s gums surrounding its teeth. This is one of the most common health complaints in dogs and can have a number of different causes.
Most often, though, periodontal disease in dogs is the result of an infection. When bacteria is allowed to gather around a dog’s gum line, this can then form into plaque. Plaque, when combined with minerals, can then become ‘calculus’ – which causes the gum to become irritated and inflamed. This is called ‘gingivitis.’
Over time, this calculus can build up in the gum and become separated from the teeth, leaving spaces where bacteria can enter. When this happens, the gums can become infected, painful and swollen and may even produce some kind of discharge. At this point, the dog can be considered as having periodontal disease. The precise symptoms of periodontal disease can vary slightly depending on the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.
Does Your Dog Have Periodontal Disease?
While the specifics may vary slightly, the symptoms will be similar across cases of periodontal disease. Usually, this condition will begin with inflammation in one tooth, which can then progress and worsen if left untreated. This progression occurs in conveniently defined stages:
Stage 1: Gingivitis - Periodontal disease in one or several teeth
The gum at the top of teeth is inflamed and swollen, and plaque covers the teeth.
Stage 2: Early Periodontitis - 25% attachment loss
The entire attached gum is inflamed and swollen. Your dog's mouth is painful, and bad breath is noticeable.
Stage 3: Moderate Periodontitis - 25-50% attachment loss
Infection and calculus are destroying the gum, which turns read and bleeding. Your dog's mouth is sore, which can affect eating and behavior.
Stage Four: Advanced Periodontitis - more than 50% attachment loss
Bacterial infection is destroying the gum, teeth and bone. Bacteria may spread in the bloodstream throughout the body and damage the kidneys, liver and heart.
In stage four, the roots of all the teeth will be exposed as the gums recede.
Look out for signs of inflammation, discomfort in your dog while eating and receding gums. They may appear to lose their appetite, and their breath might be worse than usual. As the condition worsens, you might notice pus formation in the cavities between gums and teeth and the loss of teeth. It is highly important to check for signs of periodontal disease so that you can catch it early. If you suspect that your dog might have the condition, then take them to your vet so that they can begin treatment before irreversible damage is caused.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
There are many things you can do to help your dog avoid periodontal disease. One important tip is to give them chew toys and other abrasive toys to play with. This will help to encourage salivation and will also help to ‘brush’ the teeth. If you want to go one step further, then you can actually try brushing your dog’s teeth – although a lot of pets won’t make this easy! To keep your dog's teeth glistening and preventing the disease from getting worse, maintaining its teeth would help a lot.
Most important of all is to ensure that you are feeding your dog a canine-friendly diet. Human food is not intended for dogs and can be very bad for their health as well as their teeth more specifically due in part to the large quantities of sugar often included. The ideal diet for dogs and for improving their health all round is a raw-food diet. This is closer to what dogs would have eaten in the wild and can do a great deal to provide them with the right nutrients while avoiding additives and other unwanted ingredients that come from domesticated diets.
About the Author
Jeff Caceres is a lifelong pet lover and animal health enthusiast. After falling in love with his childhood pet, he went on to become passionate in dog breeding. Today, he lives with his 7 dogs and enjoys sharing tips to help other animal owners keep their furry friends healthy and happy!