Gum disease is the most common dental issue in canines, with nearly 90% of dogs showing signs of periodontal disease as young as two.1
It can be hard to detect the symptoms of dental disease in dogs because they tend to develop so gradually, but without timely intervention, the consequences can be severe, including: constant, chronc pain no the cause eroded gums, chronic pain, and missing teeth once it advances. Fortunately, periodontal disease is easily preventable.
This article will discuss common causes, symptoms, and treatment options for gum disease in dogs, as well as how to prevent it. Click on a link to learn more:
- What is periodontal disease in dogs?
- What causes periodontal disease in dogs?
- What are the signs of periodontal disease in dogs?
- How do you diagnose periodontal disease in dogs?
- How much does it cost to treat periodontal disease in dogs?
- How can I prevent my dog from getting gum disease?
- FAQs on periodontal disease in dogs
What is periodontal disease in dogs?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, occurs when a dog has prolonged exposure to a bacteria found in food called periodontitis, leading to infection. Typically, the bacteria proliferates in the canine's mouth without noticeable symptoms until the disease has advanced significantly. Late-stage periodontal disease in dogs can can gum erosion, cause tooth loss, chronic pain, nutritional deficies, infection spread throughout the body, and even death.
Dog Tooth Decay Stages
- Stage 1: Gingivitis (infection of the gums) presents with mild redness and swelling. Tartar buildup might also be apparent in some areas. The supporting structures around the canine's teeth are still intact at this point.
- Stage 2: Early periodontitis is characterized by a 25% loss of the tooth’s attachment to supporting structures. The gums are more irritated and redder at this point.
- Stage 3: During this stage (moderate periodontitis), 25-50% of tooth support is lost. The teeth in stages two and three do not appear noticeably different to the naked eye, but an x-ray will reveal more bone loss.
- Stage 4: Advanced or severe periodontitis indicates bone loss of 50% or greater. In this final stage, tartar is clearly visible to the naked eye, the gums are receding, the teeth are compromised, and tooth extraction may be necessary.
Periodontal disease vs gingivitis in dogs
When food and bacteria build up along the gum line and are not removed during routine teeth brushing, they can develop into plaque and harden into calculus or tartar. As a result, the gum line and adjacent regions become irritated and inflamed. This condition is known as gingivitis, or the early stage of gum disease.
The main difference between these two conditions is that gingivitis is less severe inflammation than periodontal disease, and the tooth's supporting components have not been damaged.
Is periodontal disease reversible in dogs?
Gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease, is the only stage that may be reversed because the inflamation does not impact the tooth's surrounding structure. Once the infection becomes so severe that it causes structural damage in Stages 2 and 3, periodontal disease can't be reversed, but with the right care, the disease can be prevented from advancing to Stage 4.
What causes periodontal disease in dogs?
The leading cause for gum disease in dogs is poor oral hygiene due to insuffienct tooth brushing. When food and bacteria build up along the gum line and are not removed during routine teeth brushing at-home and annual dental cleanings in-office, turns into plaque, whichs develeps into a hard, yellow substance called tartar that eats away at decaying dog teeth.
Other causes can include:
- Excessive thirst
- Poor diet and nutrition
- Alignment of the dog's teeth (crowded teeth are more prone to gum disease)
- Grooming habits (irregular licking)
- Dirty toys are also factors that could contribute to the problem
Dog breeds predisposed to gum disease
Generally, small, toy, and brachycephalic breeds are prone to unhealthy dog teeth due to genetics, poor dental hygiene, a misaligned bite, or the shape of their mouth. Examples of dog breeds prone to gum disease include:
According to one recent study, brachycephalic breeds had 1.25 times the odds of periodontal disease compared to mesocephalic breeds, and Spaniel types had 1.63 times the odds compared to non-Spaniel types.2
What are the signs of periodontal disease in dogs?
Symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs vary in intensity depending on the severity of disease progression, but typically include
- Bad breath
- Discolored teeth (yellow or brown)
- Inflamed or bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling
- Loose or missing teeth
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
- Bloody saliva
- Nasal discharge or sneezing
- Receding gums
- Lumps in the mouth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Severe, ongoing pain
Periodontal disease affects more than just your dog's mouth — it can also affect important organs and result in heart disease when germs from the mouth enter the bloodstream and attach to the arteries around the heart.
Behavioral Changes Due to Canine Dental Disease
As a dog's gum condition worsens, you might also notice certain behavioral alterations due to their of their aching gums, your dog might:
- Change their eating patterns or begin slapping their gums
- Be unable to stand having their teeth brushed any longer
- Become more aggressive or reclusive
- Avoid playing with chew toys
- When you attempt to touch their mouth to look at their teeth, they recoil or flee
In addition, your dog might struggle to take up food, drop food from their mouth, or begin to chew on one side. They could also exhibit signs of shyness like refusing to have their heads touched.
How do you diagnose periodontal disease in dogs?
Diagnosing gum disease requires a vet/specialist and anesthesia to safely x-ray and examine dogs' teeth below the gum line.
When you inspect your dog's mouth, you can see tartar above the gumline. Starting at the gum line and spreading outward, it has the appearance of a brown layer and gradually covers more of the tooth's surface. Tartar and plaque below the gumline are considerably more difficult to see, yet this is where the true damage occurs to the tissues that support the tooth, increasing the risk of tooth loss.
How to treat periodontal disease in dogs
Treatment for periodontal disease in dogs will depend on how advanced the disease is.
- Stage 1 Treatment: A professional dental cleaning can be used to treat gingivitis. The average cost of dog teeth cleaning is between $300 and $700.
- Stage 2 Treatment: To aid in reattaching the gum to the tooth root, the gum tissue and tooth root are cleaned, rinsed, and treated with a gel in this stage.
- Stage 3 Treatment: To remove plaque and tartar buildup, the teeth will require a deep cleaning or scraping, both below and above the gum line, followed by polishing. General anesthesia is always required for this procedure, so be sure to prepare your dog for anesthesia.
- Stage 4 Treatment: Once the condition has progressed to this stage, surgery, which usually involves tooth extraction, will be required to treat the afflicted teeth.
Early treatment of periodontal disease may be able to save your pet's teeth, it is a good idea to get your dog examined by a veterinarian at least once or twice a year for periodontal disease. Even if your dog seems to be fine and shows no signs of gum disease, follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding dental care.
How much does it cost to treat periodontal disease in dogs?
Treatment options and their costs might vary greatly depending on several factors, such as your location and whether or not the professional providing the care is a veterinarian specialist. The cost of treatment will decrease the earlier gum disease is treated. Treatment for dogs in stages three and four can cost thousands of dollars.
Treatment for gum disease in dogs is typically itemized by service and should include:
- Anesthesia For Dog Dental Work ($90 to $1,200): The vet will use anesthesia to evaluate the oral cavity and clean the dog's teeth.
- Dental Xrays ($150 to $250): Imaging is necessary to assess the jaw, mouth, and the tooth roots that are not visible below the gumline.
- Oral Exam ($55 to $90): A physical examination under anesthesia allows the vet to inspect the dog's gums, teeth, cheeks, the roof of the mouth, and tongue.
- Dental Cleaning ($300 to $700): Cleaning involves scaling the teeth to remove plaque and tartar buildup with a professional tool, followed by tooth polish to remove discoloration and stains.
- Cavity Filling ($500 to $2,000): If your dog has a cavity, any enamel, dentin, or pulp will need to be removed and the tooth restored with a filling.
- Tooth Extraction ($10 to $100 per tooth): The removal of rotten dog teeth due to severe tooth decay is often required to treat the infection.
Does pet insurance cover dental care for dogs?
Pet insurance is the best option when it comes to budgeting for dog dental work. Dental coverage can be found in many pet insurance plans. Coverage varies by insurer, but companies like Pets Best and Embrace cover both dental illness and accidents and provide reimbursement for a wide range of dental issues such as root canals, damaged teeth, gingivitis, stomatitis, teeth removal, crowns, and gum disease.
Dental pet coverage doesn’t include pre-existing conditions that occurred before coverage began, routine dental care like teeth cleaning, as well as endodontic, orthodontic, and cosmetic services such as implants, fillings, and caps.
Recovery and management of periodontal disease in dogs
The length of recovery from gum disease depends on the required medical care. A dog who has had a straightforward cleaning and scaling procedure should return to normal the following day. In the case of extractions or major surgeries, it might take your pet three to five days to fully recover. It is recommended to soften your dog’s food so they can eat it comfortably during this time.
For pets with stages three and four of periodontal disease, antibiotics to prevent infections as well as anti-inflammatory drugs and meds for pain relief for dogs may be required. During these advanced stages of periodontal disease, routine follow-up veterinary visits are also necessary.
How can I prevent my dog from getting gum disease?
Dogs should begin undergoing preventative professional dental cleanings under anesthesia at a young age, before any signs of gum disease are visible, in addition to receiving regular oral care at home.
Preventive Pet Care For Oral Health
Preventive pet care for oral health includes:
- Annual dental exams by your veterinarian. You may want to arrange an oral examination every six months if your dog is prone to periodontal disease (Bulldog, Yorkie, Dachshund, or another small breed). To prevent plaque formation, topical treatments can also be administered to the teeth and gums, but this must be done consistently and daily.
- Brushing your pet’s teeth at home. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste made just for canines according to your vet’s instructions. Don’t use human toothpaste as the majority of products contain fluoride, which is toxic to dogs.
- Providing specialized food and treats to reduce tartar. Speak to your veterinarian to determine which ones are best for your pet.
- Examining your dog’s mouth for any abnormalities, such as redness, tartar, bad breath, or loose teeth.
Pet Wellness Plans For Routine Care
Wellness plans for preventive pet care, which can be added to your standard pet insurance policy, include coverage for dental cleanings and other preventive care for dogs. With most pet wellness plans for routine care, you get reimbursed the predetermined amount from your plan; there is no requirement that you fulfill a deductible and no reimbursement percentage. Use Pawlicy Advisor to learn where to buy pet dental insurance, compare different levels of coverage provided by different insurers and find the best wellness plan for routine care.
FAQs on Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Is gum disease common in dogs?
Gum disease is the most common health issue in dogs. According to the Journal of Small Animal Practice, primary-care veterinary practices report an average prevalence of periodontal disease in 9.3 to 18.2% of canines based upon visual diagnosis alone during an exam in which the patient is conscious. Detailed examinations report a much higher prevalence of 44 to 100%.
Can dogs get cavities?
Just like humans, dogs can get cavities, or areas of damaged teeth caused by prolonged exposure to bacteria that remains in the mouth after eating food.
How do you treat periodontal disease in dogs?
Treatment for periodontal disease in dogs depends on how severe the condition is. Stage one can be easily treated with a dental cleaning. Stages two and three require scaling or scraping under general anesthesia, whereas stage four requires surgery and canine tooth extraction.
How long can a dog live with periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease can have serious health effects on a dog's entire body if left untreated. Eye problems, jaw fractures, oronasal fistulas, tooth abscesses, and a higher chance of organ damage are a few of the possible dog health issues that can reduce your dog’s lifespan.
Is periodontal disease painful in dogs?
In advanced stages, gum disease can cause chronic pain, gum erosion, and tooth loss.
Is there a vaccine for periodontal disease in dogs?
There’s no vaccine to prevent gum disease in dogs.
- JSAP, "World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines" Accessed December 13, 2022.
- JSAP, "Epidemiology of periodontal disease in dogs in the UK primary-care veterinary setting" Accessed December 13, 2022.
- World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA),"WSAVA Global Dental Guidelines" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
- Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP), "Epidemiology of periodontal disease in dogs in the UK primary-care veterinary setting" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
- JSAP, "A review of the frequency and impact of periodontal disease in dogs" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.