Like humans, dogs can get periodontal disease, or an infection in the gum. The condition is five times more common in dogs than it is in people. While your dog may not display symptoms in the early states of the disease, as the infection progresses, it can cause serious problems. Fortunately, you can take steps to prevent periodontal disease in your dog.
Without treatment, periodontal disease can lead to:
- Tooth loss
- Chronic pain
- Bone loss
- Eroded gums
- Bone infection
- Jaw fractures
- Changes or damage to internal organs from infection entering the bloodstream
Cause of Periodontal Disease
Gum disease is caused by a bacterial infection in the mouth that creates plaque on the teeth. The plaque above the gumline hardens into tartar on the teeth, but it is the bacteria and plaque under the gums that cause periodontal disease.
The bacteria cause multiple problems under the gums. The toxins secreted by the bacteria erode and damage the gum tissue. In addition, the gums become swollen as the body's immune system fights the bacterial infection. The swelling of the gums is called gingivitis. The tissues in the mouth that support the teeth are damaged by the chemicals that the dog's immune system releases to fight the bacteria. This erosion of tissue and bone is call periodontitis.
Symptoms of Gum Infection
Usually, the only symptom of periodontal disease that your dog may display in the early stages is bad breath. As the disease advances you may see:
- Bleeding gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Difficulty eating
- Avoiding being touched on the head
- Only chewing on one side
Prevention and Treatment
The steps to prevent periodontal disease in your dog are similar to the ones you take to ensure your own oral health. Brush your dog's teeth daily. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate if you are unsure how to do this.
Allowing your dog to chew on toys such as a rubber ball or rawhide helps clean teeth and prevent gum disease.
In addition, have your dog's teeth and mouth checked regularly. Your vet can help you decide when it is time for a dental cleaning. Your dog will be under general anesthesia for the procedure, which will include a thorough cleaning and X-rays.
Once gum disease is advanced, your vet will determine the best treatment options. In some cases, your vet may be able to clean under the gums and use a gel to attach the gums to the teeth. If the disease is more severe, your vet may have to remove teeth to stop the infection.