Keeping your dog’s teeth and gums in tip-top condition is vital to keeping their overall general health in good condition, too. Associated with a range of problematic medical conditions, such as heart disease, obesity, food/feeding problems, malnutrition, and more, gingivitis and other gum diseases are preventable with the right care and attention.
Let’s take a closer look...
- What is Gum Disease in Dogs?
- Four Stages of Dental Disease in Dogs
- Dog Breeds Prone to Dental Disease
- Dog Gum Disease Prevention
- How to Treat Gingivitis in Dogs
- Emergency Fund
What is Gum Disease in Dogs?
Gum disease is a catch-all term used for a range of conditions related to the gums and teeth. It is also known by other catch-all terms, such as dental disease, or periodontal disease.
As well as being a very common condition in humans, it’s also very common in canines, too. In fact, some experts believe up to two-thirds of all pooches will have some brush with dental disease past the age of three years.
Here are a few other conditions and terms that you may encounter if your poor pup has dental or gum disease.
According to research, gingivitis is the medical name for painful and inflamed gums, and it is usually the very first stage or symptom.
Symptoms of Gingivitis in Dogs
- Bleeding gums;
- Swollen gums;
- Redder-than-usual gums;
- Food and water avoidance;
- Pawing at the face/mouth.
An abscess is a collection of pus, caused by a bacterial infection. It usually affects the root of a tooth, but can happen anywhere in the mouth, and anywhere else around the body.
Read more: Abscessed Tooth in Dogs: Why You Shouldn’t Ignore It
Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess in Dogs
As well as having an obviously swollen cheek, jaw, or just underneath the eye, your dog will also likely display signs of being in pain. It is incredibly difficult to eat, drink, and even move the jaw for a dog with an abscessed tooth.
If you are at work all day, and no one is in the house with your pooch, you may miss symptoms, such as water or food avoidance. This is especially the case if there is more than one dog in the house. For this reason, using something akin to a Petcube interactive pet camera will give you all the information you might miss.
Four Stages of Dental Disease in Dogs
Dental disease isn’t something that happens overnight; it takes a long time for the condition to materialize. Oftentimes, the beginning stages of the disease will happen without you (the owner) ever realizing something isn’t right.
There are four main stages of dental disease in dogs. They are:
1: Normal, Healthy Teeth
Your pup’s teeth will look normal and just as they usually would. At this stage, taking care of them properly, and using the preventive measures listed below, will ensure they stay in healthy, good condition for as long as possible.
Read more: Dog Dental Care: Basic Oral Hygiene and Teeth Cleaning
2: Developing Plaque & Gingivitis
Your dog probably drools a lot. That saliva, when a lot of it builds up, eventually turns into plaque. Bacteria also turns into plaque, along with drool and any leftover food remnants. If the bacteria manage to access the gums, gingivitis can and probably will occur.
Over time, the plaque creates what is known as a ‘biofilm’. This film makes it a lot harder to get rid of the plaque in normal ways, so the longer you leave plaque to develop, the much harder it will be to get rid of/treat. For this reason, you should have a plaque on your dog’s teeth treated as soon as possible.
3: Developing Tartar
If plaque isn’t treated, it then turns into tartar – and no, I don’t mean the sauce you’d usually eat with fish.
Over time, the leftover ‘bits’ that have turned into plaque, will start to change color and turn a lot harder. The patches will get darker and browner, usually starting with where the teeth meet the gums. That’s the browning you can often see on doggy (and human) teeth.
As the plaque and tartar get older and browner, the patches get even harder still (on top of the biofilm), which means it will be even more difficult to treat.
Tartar is not good, in a very not good way. First and foremost, there are lots of bacteria and other bugs in it, which can in turn cause gingivitis, tooth abscesses, and even problems with other parts of the body. In severe cases, tartar can lead to septicemia, also known as blood poisoning – which can be fatal extremely quickly.
4: Dental (Gum and Tooth) Disease
If your doggo has tartar and sensitive, inflamed gums (gingivitis), they already have dental disease, which exists as a scale – mild to severe gum or dental disease.
How is Gum Disease Diagnosed in Dogs?
The later stages of gum disease are more obvious than the latter stages, just as with most medical conditions. In the later stages, a visual examination is often all it takes for a vet to diagnose gingivitis in dogs.
The earliest stages of gum disease in dogs can present with very few/no symptoms.
Dog Breeds Prone to Dental Disease
Some dogs are prone to gum and teeth problems, mostly due to the shape of the muzzle. These include:
- Shih Tzus;
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels;
- Yorkshire Terriers.
Older dogs are also more prone to gingivitis and other dental or gum diseases.
You will, obviously, need to take better care of more at-risk dogs. Your vet may even advise more frequent checkup trips, or a special diet, to properly care for your dog’s specific needs.
It is also common for dogs to suffer from gum disease if they are late to lose their baby teeth. This should happen around four to six months of age. Some vets will advise surgically removing the first set of teeth if they take too long to fall out naturally. A crowded mouth can cause a vast array of problems, the dental disease being just one.
Dog Gum Disease Prevention
There are plenty of preventative measures you can take to prevent doggy dental disease, including:
- Feeding them a healthy and balanced diet.
- Introduce dry/hard food to the diet occasionally (to scrape off plaque, etc).
- Providing plenty of fresh, clean water.
- Brush their teeth or use teeth-cleaning treats as part of your routine.
- Get their teeth professionally and properly cleaned at the vet.
- Invest in teeth-cleaning-focused toys.
- Make sure they get plenty of exercise.
- Visit the vet on a regular basis and have your pup checked over.
- Have baby teeth surgically removed if they don’t fall out naturally.
- Avoid bones, which can crack or break teeth.
- Get broken or cracked doggy teeth looked at by a vet.
In short: the healthier your pooch is overall, the healthier their teeth and gums will be!
How to Treat Gingivitis in Dogs
Your vet will approach your dog’s case of dental disease in a way that minimizes their suffering while also treating the root cause. Sometimes, this will mean a course of antibiotics, which can be accompanied by pain relief. Anti-inflammatory medication will also help with the symptoms of gingivitis.
In severe cases, surgery might be necessary to deal with any serious problems. This can mean the removal of one or more teeth, draining of pus-filled abscesses, root canal treatments, etc.
A change in routine going forward is also likely to be recommended, focusing on the preventative measures listed above.
The thought of a doggy emergency, such as septic shock from untreated dental disease, is a horrifying one, that no pet parent wants to experience. It’s never pleasant to watch your pet in distress, and that’s before you think about the cost of vet care.
Petcube’s Emergency Fund might just be able to help you out with that side of things, though!
For just $1 per day, you can ensure that you have emergency treatment for your pets when you need it the most. Up to six of your furry friends will be covered, up to the value of $3,000 worth of emergency care, every year.
Be proactive about pet problems with Petcube!
Will dental disease in dogs go away by itself?
No, it won’t. In fact, when left untreated, a simple and mild case of dental disease can quickly become a potentially fatal case of septicemia.
Do home remedies for dogs with dental disease work?
In very mild cases, home treatment is a workable approach for dogs with dental disease. If your pup already has gingivitis, however, it means that the disease has progressed into the second, and possibly third stage. It is best to speak to a vet before making any decisions.