Gingivitis and periodontal disease in dogs (symptoms and treatment)


Good dental care is important for every dog’s overall health. Your dog’s toothbrush, dental chewies, and vet cleanings can prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Most dogs over the age of four or five have some extent of gum inflammation. Food and bacteria become trapped under the gum line causing plaque. This plaque hardens or mineralises into tartar within several days. If the tartar is not removed, it causes an inflammation of the gums called gingivitis. As gingivitis progresses, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth creating pockets that collect even more food and bacteria.

Untreated gingivitis develops into periodontal disease. This infection is very painful and results in tooth loss and destruction of underlying tissue and bone, eventually spreading into the bloodstream and damaging internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, and heart.

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Which Dogs Get Periodontal Disease?

  • Older dogs more commonly have dental disease.
  • Small breeds and brachycephalic breeds are more prone to dental disease due to crowded or misaligned teeth that collect more plaque and tartar.
  • Dogs who chew because of skin problems may accumulate hair around the teeth and gums.
  • Dogs who are fed soft, moist food may be more prone to dental disease. Experts generally agree that dry kibble is best for dental health.
  • Dogs who do not get regular tooth brushings and dental cleanings will have a buildup of tartar that harbours bacteria, which destroys dental health.

Symptoms of Canine Dental Disease:

Bad breath is usually the first sign that people notice. Some dog owners think that all dogs have bad breath, but stinky breath is an indication of infection and problems. Other signs owners may notice are:

  • Blood on chew toys
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Brown tartar deposits on the teeth
  • Reluctance to open or close the mouth completely
  • Disinterest in chew toys
  • Swollen face or muzzle due to abscessed teeth
  • Not eating due to pain in the mouth
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Frequent licking of the mouth or nose
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge on only one side
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Treatment of Gum Disease in Dogs

Depending on the severity, dental disease in dogs has several options for treatment. Other than regular dental cleaning and polishing, various methods of deep cleaning underneath the gum line and removal of infected tissue may be used. 

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Sometimes part of the gum tissue is trimmed away to help eliminate pockets that collect food and bacteria while special ultrasonic scalers remove bacteria and irritants. Sometimes special therapeutic materials can be placed inside the pockets to stimulate healing. Sometimes tooth extraction is the only option.

All of these procedures require anesthesia. It is likely that your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics as well as run blood tests to determine if the dog’s internal organs are functioning properly.

Occasionally, if circumstances warrant, a veterinarian will clean a dog’s teeth without anesthesia, but this is usually difficult for both dog and vet and does not allow for a thorough cleaning.

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Tips for Prevention of Canine Dental Disease

  •  Feed a diet recommended by your veterinarian
  • Regularly brush your dog’s teeth, using toothpaste made especially for dogs
  • Provide chew toys that promote good dental health
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings with your veterinarian

Recommended products for dog dental care

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