Just like in humans, periodontal diseases take many forms in dogs. They're caused by the same culprit—a buildup of plaque or tartar on your dog’s teeth. This buildup can lead to bad breath, gingivitis and periodontitis. All pet owners should know the basics about common periodontal diseases in dogs, including their causes, symptoms and treatment options.
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be caused by more than just the buildup of plaque and tartar—it can also be caused by bacteria in the mouth. Brachycephalic, or short-faced, breeds like Pugs, Pekingese and Boston Terriers are the most susceptible to bad breath, mainly because their teeth are close together.
Odor isn't the only symptom. Halitosis may cause other symptoms such as pawing at the mouth, loss of appetite, loose teeth and excessive drooling. Bad breath could also be a symptom of serious diseases such as diabetes mellitus, respiratory problems, or gastrointestinal problems. Halitosis treatment varies depending on the cause of the problem, but it usually involves professional cleaning and teeth polishing. In some cases, medications may control the nasty bacteria and reduce bad breath.
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. It starts with accumulated food particles your dog’s teeth. They provide a breeding ground for bacteria, and as it multiplies, it can form a thick plaque that mineralizes and turns into tartar. The tartar causes gingivitis, which causes gum inflammation, irritation, infection and bleeding.
Poor nutrition and lack of regular dental cleaning can also result in gingivitis in dogs. To treat gingivitis, your dog needs to see a vet for a thorough dental cleaning above and below the gum line (in many cases, a vet will need to use sedation or general anesthesia). Once the teeth and gums are cleaned, an antibiotic gel will be used to soothe inflamed gums and help the healing process.
Periodontitis, which is often referred to simply as gum disease, can be serious when it comes to your dog’s dental health. At first, symptoms are usually mild and go unnoticed. But as periodontitis progresses, obvious symptoms like chronic pain, missing teeth, and even bone loss may occur. Other signs of gum disease include bleeding gums, bad breath, thick saliva, and chewing only on one side of the mouth.
In mild cases of periodontitis, treatment may involve a thorough dental cleaning. In serious cases involving bone loss, a thorough cleaning of the tooth root and bone, or tooth extraction, may be required.
Monitoring and maintaining your dog’s dental health is important. Whether your dog lets you brush his teeth or not, regular dental check-ups and cleanings are necessary. Dental health is crucial for not just his mouth, but for his overall health.
Amy Tokic is the Editor of Petguide.com, the flagship site to over 70 different pet communities, which offers pet parents a one-stop-info-shop for all things dog and cat related. Amy's been with PetGuide since the beginning, guided by the wisdom of her Shih Tzu mix and furry roommate, Oscar. Together, this pet power couple has their paw on the pulse of the pet industry, sniffing out trends, advice, news, tasty treat recipes and other tail-wagging stories.