Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is a bacterial infection of the mouth that causes weakening and eventual loss of the supporting structures of the teeth.
Periodontal disease can cause significant harm to a dog’s mouth, eventually leading to chronic pain and tooth loss. It can also increase the risk of heart, liver and kidney disease. There are often no obvious signs in the early stages of gum disease, so by the times symptoms are noticed, your pet may already have advanced disease. Symptoms are often noticed in older dogs with advanced periodontal disease, but it is important to know that over 80% of dogs have early stages of gum disease by the age of three.
Tooth fracture is common, especially in larger dog breeds. A fractured tooth can be very painful and will usually lead to infection and death of the pulp tissue.
Abrasion damage is also common especially from play with hard toys or tennis balls.
Discoloured teeth are also common and usually reflect traumatic damage. In 90% of these cases, these teeth will have a necrotic or dead pulp.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the signs of dental disease in dogs?
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth or teeth that are discoloured or covered in tartar/calculus
- Broken or missing teeth
- Your pet shies away from you when you touch the mouth area
- Drooling or dropping food from the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of appetite or weight loss (this combination can result from disease of many organs and early veterinary examination is important)
Is dental disease painful for dogs?
Yes, it very often is.
Have a good look at your dog’s mouth and try to imagine how your mouth would feel if it looked the same!
Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner, but this does not mean that they are not feeling pain. They cannot tell you about the pain. In the wild, animals tend to hide signs of illness or weakness and dogs and cats possess this instinct.
Many painful dental conditions develop gradually and are more common in middle aged and older pets. As a result, behaviour that the owner interprets as “acting grumpy” may be the result of dental pain. Owners often observe that their pet acts “years younger” following dental treatment so make sure that your vet examines your dog’s mouth every time your pet visits the veterinary surgery.
How does the vet assess and treat dental disease in dogs?
- Physical examination during a consultation.
- Full oral examination under general anaesthetic with Dental X Rays as up to 60% of dental disease is under the level of the gum.
- A professional dental cleaning to reduce bacteria and help guard against periodontal disease.
- Treatment of the diseased teeth or extractions as necessary.
What can I do to help my dog's dental health?
Brush teeth on a daily basis to help reduce plaque, a sticky film that contains the bacteria that cause periodontal disease. Be sure to use toothpaste that is recommended for dogs.
For tips on how to brush your dog's teeth why not watch our video?
Visit your veterinarian for regular professional dental cleaning.
Give your dog chew toys and consider food specially formulated to address dental disease.
Give your dog chew treats specially formulated to help reduce the formation of tartar / calculus
Dental chews and diets do not take the place of brushing but is a great supplement to oral hygiene and a treat for your pet.
How else can I look after my dog’s teeth?
- Use toys and balls designed for dogs
- Avoid tennis balls as they are very abrasive and will cause tooth wear
- Avoid giving dogs toys and chews that are harder that teeth
- Avoid sugary treats