Periodontitis in dogs occurs in 90% of the dog population. What is periodontitis in dogs? What are the signs and symptoms? How can it be prevented?
It has been observed that 90% of the dogs develop periodontal disease by the age of two years. In this blog post I will be discussing what is periodontal disease in dogs? Why does it occur? What are the signs and symptoms of this disease and finally how can you prevent your dog from getting affected by this disease? To understand all the above-mentioned points, read all the way to the very end of this blog post.
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What is periodontitis in dogs?
One of the most common gum diseases in dogs is the periodontitis in dogs. This is a recurring, progressive and inflammatory disease. Periodontitis is usually caused by bacteria present in the mouth of your dog. This disease leads to infection which occurs in the gums. These bacteria hide beneath the gums of the dogs, therefore, the symptoms are not usually visible during the initial stages of the disease.
By the time the dog guardians realize that something is wrong with their dog’s teeth, the disease usually has progressed to serious stages. By this time, your dog might be in a world of pain. This is why taking care of your dog’s teeth is of utmost importance.
Causes behind periodontitis in dogs
Dogs have more of an alkaline environment in their oral cavity. This environment makes it ideal for the plaque forming bacteria to make your dog’s mouth their home and proliferate.
As previously mentioned, the primary perpetrator of periodontal disease in dogs are the oral bacteria which enter through your dog’s mouth and stick to the teeth and cause formation of plaques.
Plaque is basically a white colored substance which tends to cover the teeth in a layer of biofilm. This biofilm then acts as a home to many different types of microorganisms, some of which may be harmful and cause diseases. Plaques need a duration of 24 hours to form. This is the cause behind most gum diseases in dogs. Therefore, if you are not in the habit of brushing your dog’s teeth daily, there is a higher chance of plaque development in his or her teeth.
The plaque formed on your dog’s teeth harden, mineralize and finally turn in to calculus which is referred to as tartar within a period of 72 hours. The tartar is very difficult to remove by the process of brushing. To remove the tartar, you will have to take your pup to the vet.
Research done on the teeth of dogs have shown that the tarter carry billions of bacteria in every gram. Regular brushing is the only way to prevent this tartar buildup in your dog’s teeth.
Is periodontitis in dogs communicable to other dogs or humans?
Periodontal disease is one of those gum diseases in dogs which has not been observed to be contagious to other humans or or animals. However, people are at risk of suffering from dental diseases if proper dental care and oral hygiene is not observed regularly.
Are there any vaccines available to prevent periodontitis in dogs?
Unfortunately, no. There are currently no vaccines available to prevent this type of disease. However, there are many ways to keep your dog’s teeth healthy.
Which breeds are most susceptible to suffering from periodontitis?
There are many factors which can make your dog prone to periodontal disease like the dog’s breed, poor dental hygiene, the shape of the mouth and jaw, maligned bite, being bracycephalic etc. The following dog breeds have been observed to have a higher tendency of suffering from periodontal diseases:
Pugs suffer from the problem of teeth crowding. They have very small jaws which are not able to sufficiently space out each and every tooth. This leads to crowding of the jaw. Crowding makes the pug’s teeth more susceptible to the development of plaque leading to gingivitis, periodontitis, other gum diseases in dogs and even teeth loss.
This problem is also noticed in dogs who have short muzzles like Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers and English Bulldogs.
Most herding dog breeds are endowed with a pointed snout which have an overbite. This overbite makes them susceptible to suffering from gum diseases.
Small dog breeds as well as toy breeds have deciduous teeth like Maltese, Pomeranians, Poodles as well as Yorkies. Their teeth structure makes it easy for food to get collected in hard-to-reach areas. Without regular dental cleaning, these regions are very hard-to-reach. This type of condition predisposes them towards developing periodontal diseases.
This breed not only has the teeth crowding problem, it also has the problem of teeth erupting later than the usual time. This late teeth eruption can lead to tooth impaction as well as formation of dentigerous cyst.
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis in dogs
The signs of periodontal disease in dogs can be very different depending on the specific dogs. Some dogs, by the look of it, have beautiful pearly white teeth and no disease which can be seen up front. However, on conducting a thorough gum examination as well as full mouth x-rays after anaesthetization of the dog, it is found that the dog is already suffering from severe gum disease. This is the reason why you should not wait for gum discoloration or symptoms to appear in the teeth. Dental checkups should be a part of your dog’s annual checkup and should not be missed.
The sign of the periodontal disease will also depend on the stage of periodontal disease your dog is suffering from. Periodontal disease can be divided into four stages in case of dogs with stage I being the mild disease where the symptoms are not apparent and stage IV being of the most serious manner.
Stages of periodontitis in dogs
Stage 0: healthy and normal periodontium
This is the stage where your dog’s periodontal disease has not started yet. At this stage, the gums should look pink and not inflamed. There is no presence of any pocket or lamina dura.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
Gingivitis basically means inflammation of the gums. At this stage, there is no loss of tooth or bone attachment. The symptoms of the disease might be very subtle and identifiable only on careful and close examination. The primary symptoms during this stage include
- puffy/swollen and red gums
- horrible stinking breath
- gum bleed during chewing or brushing
- the deposition of plaque or tartar on the tooth
Gingivitis or stage 1 is easily reversible with polishing, professional scaling and diligent oral care routine at home. However, if there is no treatment administered at this stage, the plaque and tartar will persist and lead to an increase in bacterial population and progress to stage II.
Stage II: Loss of tooth attachment
Stage I progresses to stage II when periodontal pockets start to emerge between the tooth and gum and there is loss of around 25% of tooth support. Basically, the teeth start to lose their firm attachment to the gums. If an x-ray is conducted at this stage, mild bone loss maybe observed.
Symptoms of stage II
- formation of pockets between the gum and the tooth
- bad breath
- bleeding gums
- receding of the bones and gums
- swollen and puffy gums
If a dog guardian does not want his or her dog’s teeth to progress into the next stage, it is imperative that proper dental care is started and maintained regularly. At this stage, some veterinary treatment might be required like rinsing of the gum tissue, cleansing as well as reattachment of the gum with medical grade gel to the root.
Stage III: Moderate loss of attachment
In stage III, the loss of attachment increases from 25% to 50%. If x-rays are conducted at this stage, severe bone loss will be seen since the pockets have become deeper (around 5 mm).
Symptoms of stage III
- loose teeth
- extensive reduction in the bone
- gum recession observed in moderate levels
- deepening of the pockets
- extension of the plaque and tartar further down to the roots.
At this stage, advanced level dental procedures will be required to save your dog’s teeth and gums.
Stage IV: Periodontitis
When the problem has finally progressed to the periodontitis stage, there is a loss of 50 to 70% of the tooth attachments. At this stage, teeth might start falling off and your dog is in a great deal of pain.
Symptoms of stage IV
- deepening pockets
- extensive spread of plaque and tartar
- severe inflammation of the gums
- painful gum and bone loss
- exposure of the tooth root
- missing or loose teeth
- white blood cells accumulating in the gums which leads to release of pus from around the teeth.
At this advanced stage, the only treatment which remains to help your dog is to remove the tooth entirely.
Is periodontitis reversible?
As I mentioned before, periodontal disease can be divided into four stages. If your dog is in stage I of the disease, it is easily reversible. All you have to do is engage in the process of dog teeth brushing on an everyday basis.
However, if your dog is suffering from stage II or stage III of the disease, the damage done cannot be reversed. However, a proper dental treatment will definitely prevent the disease from growing any further and developing into full blown periodontitis.
Is periodontitis painful?
Have you ever suffered from toothache? Or undergone any kind of root canal treatment? If you have, you would know that toothache is the thing of nightmares. It is the same case with your pup as well. Periodontal disease is a very painful class of gum diseases in dogs. The constant discomfort which occurs due to the disease can lead to behavioral changes like
- flinching or pulling away if you try to lift the lips to have a look at the teeth.
- Your dog does not allow you to brush their teeth because it is very painful
- the dog starts to chew the food in a different manner or smack the gums a lot.
- The dog may become aggressive or withdrawn due to the pain.
- Your dog may stop playing with chew toys or rope toys.
How is periodontitis diagnosed in dogs?
There is only one way to correctly diagnose periodontal disease in dogs. This involves periodontal probing. In this, the vet checks for the presence of abnormal space between the gums and teeth. The vet may also take x-rays of the teeth. The above-mentioned procedures are generally performed after the dog has been sedated under general anesthesia.
How to prevent periodontitis in dogs?
There is a very simple and effective solution to preventing periodontal disease in your pup. All you have to do is engage in the activity of dog teeth brushing everyday. A lot of dog guardians complain that their dogs will not let them brush their teeth. There is a time and place to brush your dog’s teeth when you are initially starting out and getting your dog into the habit. Focus on the times of the day when your dog is very tired, for example right after a strenuous exercise or a long walk. This is the time when you should grab your dog and brush his or her teeth. During this time, your dog would be too tired to resist a lot. Eventually, down the line, your dog will get used to the process of brushing and will not act very defensively.
Teeth are the most important components of the dog’s body. Dogs need their teeth to interact with other dogs, to play, to hold things in their mouth etc. The teeth are a part of the dog’s identity and should be protected as such. Get your dog used to the process of brushing at an early age so that you can prevent the formation of periodontal disease in your pup during the later stages of his or her life. You can also go for dental chews f you cannot brush your dog’s teeth everyday.
I started brushing Delta’s teeth when he was around four months old. Initially, he would resist a lot. So, I switched gears and started to brush his teeth after his walks when he would be dead tired. This time, he would offer me the least resistance. Now, he is two and half years old and does not mind getting his teeth brushed every day. I use a dog toothpaste and toothbrush meant for kids for brushing Delta’s teeth. I still brush his teeth right after his walk. I tried using dental chews, but he hates any kind of commercial dog treats or chew products. So, brushing his teeth is the only option I have to keep his gums and teeth healthy.
How do you care for your dog’s oral hygiene and prevent hum diseases in dogs? Has your dog ever suffered from periodontitis? What was your veterinarian’s advice on the same? What do you do to prevent periodontal disease in your dog? Let me know in the comment section below so that other dog guardians can be made aware of other methods to prevent periodontitis in dogs.
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