Pawlicy Advisor / Pet Care Blog

Periodontal Disease In Dogs: Stages, Symptoms & Treatment Costs

Veterinarian Lila Batiari
Lila Batiari, DVM
Small Animal Relief Veterinarian
90% of dogs develop periodontal (gum) disease by age 2. Learn how you can prevent your pet from experiencing this painful condition.

Periodontal (gum) disease in dogs is one of the most common health issues among canines, with nearly 90% of all dogs showing signs of gum disease by age two.1

Dogs display very few symptoms of periodontal disease, so the condition can be difficult to detect. If left untreated, it may lead to the erosion of gums, chronic pain, and lost teeth. The bacterial infection can also spread from the dog’s mouth to other parts of the body, like the heart or kidney, leading to more severe health consequences.

Although canine periodontal disease is uncurable, it is easily preventable. In this post, we’ll explain how dogs get gum disease, red flags to watch out for, average treatment costs, and ways to prevent your pet from suffering.

Table of Contents

What is periodontal disease in dogs?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease in dogs, is one of the most common health conditions affecting canines. It occurs when periodontitis bacteria infect a dog's mouth. This disease usually creeps into the mouth without any noticeable signs or symptoms until it has advanced. However, periodontal disease can result in tooth loss, chronic pain, and gum erosion. The structures that hold the teeth in place can also deteriorate or disappear.

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 beginning 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.

What does gum disease look like in dogs?

Periodontal disease may be visible above the gum line depending on the severity of the condition. A brown layer of tartar spreads up and outward from below the gum and covers more of the tooth’s surface. In comparison, gingivitis may cause gum tissue to appear red and inflamed.

What causes periodontal disease in dogs?

Poor diet and nutrition may contribute to the growth of bacteria and plaque that eventually lead to periodontal disease in dogs. The alignment of your dog's teeth (dogs with crowded teeth are more prone to gum disease), their grooming habits (if your dog licks themselves regularly), poor oral hygiene, and 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:

One recent study found that 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

Your dog may also experience severe, ongoing pain if the gum condition is advanced. 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 gum disease advances, you might notice alterations in dogs’ behavior due to pain, such as:

  • Difficulty picking up food
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Chewing on one side
  • Different eating patterns
  • Slapping or pawing at the gumline
  • Intolerance to toothbrushing
  • Increased aggression or reclusiveness
  • Avoidance of chew toys
  • Recoil upon touch

A refusal to have their head touched might look like they’re exhibiting signs of shyness.

tartar on dog teeth

How do you diagnose periodontal disease in dogs?

To safely and accurately diagnose canine periodontal disease, a veterinary dentist must x-ray and examine dogs' teeth below the gum line under general anesthesia. Tartar and plaque below the gumline are considerably more difficult to see, however, this is where the actual damage occurs to the supporting tooth structure, eventually leading to tooth loss. Vets must inspect below the gums to assess the tissue damage and determine the stage of tooth decay in dogs.

Dog Tooth Decay Stages

  • Stage 1: During the first stage of canine tooth decay (gingivitis), there is mild redness and swelling of the gums. Tartar buildup might also be apparent in some areas. The tooth's support is still intact at this point.
  • Stage 2: Early periodontal disease in dogs 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: At 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.

Is periodontal disease reversible in dogs?

Stages two and three of periodontal disease can't be reversed, but with the right care, the disease can be prevented from advancing to stage four.

How to treat periodontal disease in dogs

Generally, treatment for periodontal disease in dogs requires daily toothbrushing with a veterinarian-approved enzymatic toothpaste. It takes two days for calcification to occur. Your vet will recommend a specific treatment for your dog’s gum disease depending on how far the condition has advanced.

Treatment for Stage 1 Gum Disease in Dogs

A professional dental cleaning can be used to treat Stage 1 gingivitis. A typical dog teeth cleaning costs between $300 and $700 for X-Rays, anesthesia, and removal of plaque and tartar buildup when performed as annual preventive care. However, costs may increase significantly with recommended bloodwork, tooth extraction, follow-up antibiotics, and take-home pain medication for dogs with gingivitis.

Treatment for Stage 2 Gum Disease in Dogs

A veterinary dentist can treat early periodontal disease by cleaning, rinsing, and treating the tooth root with a gel to aid its reattachment to the gum. Though the damage is not entirely reversible, it is manageable and can be prevented from worsening.

Early treatment of periodontal disease may be able to save your pet's teeth, so it’s highly encouraged to get your dog’s teeth examined by a veterinarian at least once per year — even if your dog seems fine and without any apparent sign of gum disease, since symptoms may not manifest until stages three or four.

Treatment for Stage 3 Gum Disease in Dogs

To remove a moderate buildup of bacteria, your dog’s teeth will require a deep cleaning with scaling both below and above the gum line, followed by polishing. You’ll need to prepare your dog for anesthesia, as sedation is required for safe and effective plaque removal.

Treatment for Stage 4 Gum Disease in Dogs

Severe canine periodontal disease usually requires surgical tooth extraction to remove the afflicted teeth, alleviate dog’s pain, and prevent the bacteria from spreading beyond your dog’s mouth into other parts of the body.

How much does it cost to treat periodontal disease in dogs?

The cost to treat periodontal disease in dogs can range between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars depending on the severity of the condition. Generally, less dentistry work is required with earlier detection, leading to lower overall costs.

Cost to Treat Periodontal Disease in Dogs (2022 Price List)

Anesthesia For Dog Dental Work

Required to safely evaluate the oral cavity and clean the teeth

$90 - $1,200
Dental X-Rays For Dogs

Necessary to assess the jaw, mouth, and root of teeth below the gumline

$150 - $250
Oral Exam For Dogs

A veterinarian physicaly inspects the gums, teeth, cheeks, roof of the mouth, and tongue to evaluate oral health

$55 - $90
Dog Dental Cleaning

Involves scaling of the teeth to remove plaque and tartar buildup with a professional tool, followed by tooth polish to remove discoloration and stains

$300 - $700
Dog Cavity Filling

Required restoration after the removal of tooth enamel, dentin, or pulp

$500 - $2,000
Rotten Dog Tooth Removal

Severe tooth decay is best treated by extraction of rotten teeth

$10 - $100

Note: Prices vary depending on several factors, such as your location and whether or not the professional providing the care is a veterinarian specialist.

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 Stage 3 or 4 gum disease in dogs, your vet may prescribe antibiotics to prevent secondary infections as well as anti-inflammatories and pain meds. Follow-up veterinary visits will also be 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 and xylitol, which are 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.
  • Being careful with bones and toys that are too hard. You should be able to make an fingernail imprint on safe dental chews — otherwise, it’s too hard and can chip your dog’s tooth.

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 and find the best pet dental coverage from top providers.

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FAQs on Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Is gum disease common in dogs?

According to recent findings, 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?

Yes, just like humans, dogs can get cavities, i.e. areas of damage on the teeth caused by prolonged exposure to the bacteria found in 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 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?

Yes. In the more 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.

References

  1. World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA),"WSAVA Global Dental Guidelines" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
  2. Journal of Small Animal Practice (JSAP), "Epidemiology of periodontal disease in dogs in the UK primary-care veterinary setting" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
  3. JSAP, "A review of the frequency and impact of periodontal disease in dogs" Accessed Oct. 3, 2022.
Veterinarian Lila Batiari

Lila Batiari, DVM

Small Animal Relief Veterinarian -

Lila Batiari, DVM is a relief veterinarian located in San Diego, California. She has a special interest in nutrition, pain management, and surgery! Dr. Batiari enjoys working with Pawlicy Advisor to help others avoid everyday situations that some of her clientele experience. She realizes that expensive vet bills for treatment costs could be much easier for patients with pet insurance.

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