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Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Identifying and Treating Your Dog’s Gum Disease

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Picture of Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal, DVM

Dr. Rick Coufal is the founder and lead veterinarian for Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic. Coufal graduated from State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in May of 2000.

There aren’t many things in this world that are much better than the delighted smile of your dog. Much like humans, it is important to maintain proper dental hygiene for dogs. Otherwise, issues like Periodontal Disease or gum disease will surface, which can be detrimental to your dog’s health, causing deterioration of teeth and the jawbone. 

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, our top priorities are the health and well-being of pets in Colorado Springs and the education of pet owners by answering many questions about pet dental care.

Canine Periodontal Disease

Canine Periodontal Disease, also known as gum disease, is the infection of your dog’s gums that threatens tooth loss and destruction of the jawbone. Gum disease is caused by bacteria that accumulates, essentially, right after your dog eats. Small particles, like pieces of food, mix with bacteria and your dog’s saliva, creating the layer of plaque on their teeth.

Once the bacteria in the plaque builds up, your dog’s immune system activates white blood cells to try and eliminate the bacteria. Unfortunately, the “solution” is white blood cells releasing enzymes to break down gum tissue. This is what ultimately causes inflammation of the gums, which can lead to ruined tissues and bone loss if it’s not corrected soon enough.

Along with bone and tissue loss, gum disease can cause severe problems for your dog. One major concern is damage to the jawbone. If your dog’s gums and teeth deteriorate, the jawbone will also be at risk for fractures. Furthermore, if the bacteria from the gum disease enters your dog’s bloodstream, the heart, kidney, and liver are put at risk. The bacteria will increase daily stain on your dog’s organs, which can lead to other health issues.

Symptoms of Gum Disease in Dogs

Gum disease in dogs is significantly easier to treat when caught in the early stages. That being said, it is important to frequently check on your dog and monitor their behavior. Oftentimes, gum disease doesn’t initially cause any symptoms, so it is imperative that you act swiftly once signs emerge. Possible symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Bloody saliva
  • Lumps or bumps in mouth
  • Loose, wiggly teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Eating complications (has a hard time picking up food or only chews on one side of the mouth)
  • Nasal discharge or sneezing

If your dog has been showing signs of gum disease, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can. Your vet will be able to determine the severity of your dog’s condition and provide the proper treatment.

Dog Periodontal Disease Treatment

Gum disease in dogs develops at an alarming rate, so seeking treatment quickly is incredibly important. The treatment your veterinarian chooses will be based off of which stage of gum disease your dog has.

Stage 1

Stage 1 of gum disease is the easiest to treat and would be the ideal stage to identify your dog’s case. This stage is characterized by mild inflammation and redness of the gums. During this stage, your dog will also not have any periodontal pockets between the gums and teeth. Treating gum disease at this stage can be done with a cleaning above and below the gum line.

Stage 2

Stage 2 differentiates from Stage 1 with the presence of periodontal pockets between the gum and teeth. At this point, a deeper clean is required to prevent a worsening in the condition that will eventually destroy the teeth. This treatment involves cleaning and rinsing the tooth root and gum tissue. A gel will also be used to help the gum and tooth root reattach. At this stage, it is often beneficial to give your dog an anesthetized dental cleaning to ensure the comfort of your dog during a thorough cleaning.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is when the infection begins to cause high urgency, as tooth loss is occurring. At Stage 3, the periodontal pockets between the teeth and gums will be deeper than 5 millimeters. Depending on the case, Stage 3 gum disease can be treated by cleaning out the diseased tissue that is surrounding the tooth root and bone. Your vet would then have to employ special therapies to help stimulate the growth of new bone and gum tissue.

Stage 4

Once your dog’s case of gum disease has reached Stage 4, the chance of reversing the disease is extremely limited. At this point, there will have been so much bone loss that tooth extraction is the only option. Further treatment for the jawbone will also have to be considered to ensure no fractures occur.

How to Prevent Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Clearly, gum disease can be detrimental to your dog’s health if it goes unnoticed. Thankfully, there are some preventative actions you can take to safeguard your dog from this disease including:

  • Take your dog to an annual wellness exam – An annual wellness exam is a great start to prevent gum disease from sneaking up on you and your dog. At this appointment, your vet will do a thorough examination, so you can keep an eye on your dog’s teeth and gums.
  • Scheduling regular cleaning and oral exams – By checking in on the condition of your dog’s mouth periodically, you will be able to notice changes and catch any alarming differences early on. 
  • Clean your dog’s teeth at home – Much like humans, dogs need their teeth brushed often. Brushing your dog’s teeth once a day will help eliminate bacteria and plaque buildup.
  • Choose quality food – Some dog foods will help “brush” your dog’s teeth while they eat. Other foods will have additives that can prevent plaque buildup. Be sure to check in with your veterinarian to ensure this type of diet is right for your dog.
  • Try safe treats and toys – Much like the food options, there are various dog treats and toys that can also assist in keeping your dog’s teeth clean. Be sure to pick soft treats and toys (thin rawhide  strips and rubber balls) that won’t hurt your dog’s teeth.

Dog Dental Cleaning | Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic

At Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic, our team is passionate about caring for the pets of El Paso County and preventing dental problems in dogs from arising in the first place. We are here to help eliminate concerns of canine gum disease by conducting thorough wellness exams and providing quality dog dental care. Schedule an appointment with us today to protect your dog from gum disease.

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Ponderosa Veterinary Clinic is seeking an enthusiastic and caring veterinarian to work relief, part-time or full-time in our general practice. PVC is a full-service, 3+ doctor, small-animal veterinary hospital. We have established an excellent reputation for developing lasting relationships with our clients and for providing compassionate and quality care to our patients.