Periodontal Disease in Dogs: Watch Out for Teeth Infections!

Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Your dog’s breath is an excellent indicator of teeth infections. Chances are that it is subject to the periodontal disease in dogs, which if left unattended it can lead to inflammation of the gums and teeth infections. This disease is serious and it begins with the appearance of dental plaque that is a bacterial layer, which adheres to a dog’s teeth. If it is not regularly removed, the plaque found below the gum line leads to the inflammation and the infection of the root canal.

The bacteria associated with this disease can spread through blood to other organs, such as heart, liver and kidneys. This affection of a dog’s teeth includes gingivitis and periodontitis, the latter being more severe and determining the loss of the alveolar bone support of a dog’s teeth.

Dog periodontal disease is a progressive type of disease, which cannot be completely healed if the dental plaque is not completely removed, but which can be prevented and controlled with the help of proper hygiene measures and treatment. It is estimated that 85% of adult dogs are affected by this disease. If discovered in time, the costs associated with the treatment are significantly lower and the additional risks to your dog’s health can be minimized.

The good news about this condition is that it can be prevented. Regular checkups and daily brushing are the best ways to prevent periodontal disease and keep your dog’s teeth as healthy as possible. If you teach your dog to accept teeth brushing from young age, it will enjoy an infection free adulthood.

Generalities about the periodontal disease

Paradontosis is an inflammation of the supporting structures of the teeth, the gingival tissue, the paradonatal ligament, the alveoli and the cementum, which is a connective tissue that covers the tooth’s root and is meant to support the tooth as well. It is one of the most common infectious diseases in dogs and it is caused by bacteria that form dental plaque. Because it is known as the main cause for tooth loss, periodontitis is also referred to as the “silent killer”. This happens due to its destructive nature.

The total impact on a dog’s body is difficult to measure, but periodontitis is the number one source of bacteria that causes aspiration pneumonia in humans. To find out how you can help your dog avoid this, why not read our article on dog hygiene maintenance.

Peridontal disease

The explanation for this phenomenon is that bacteria are released in a dog’s bloodstream when it chews on its food or when its owner is washing its teeth. Besides causing tooth loos, this condition also causes the loss of bone mass, which can lead to the fracture of a dog’s jaw. It is often met at dogs older than 3 years, but also present in younger specimens.

There are other dental problems that occur in dogs and that may have symptoms similar to the periodontal disease. Therefore, it is important to rule out other illnesses before accepting a diagnosis in favor of periodontitis. Tests may include a complete medical history and a physical examination of the dog. The vet should focus on examining a dog’s oral cavity while the dog is most probably anesthetized.

A complete analysis of the mouth with the help on an X-ray is needed in order to assess the dog’s overall dental state. 70% of a tooth’s structure is situated below the gum line, so periodontitis cannot be correctly diagnosed without an evaluation of the gums. To know more of how to develop healthy mouths in your canine pets, see the our article on the topic.

Causes and factors that determine periodontitis

Dogs end up suffering from periodontitis as a result of the occurrence of dental plaque, tartar and gingivitis. Food scraps in combination with bacteria gather around the gums and lead to the development of dental plaque. As soon as dental plaque appears, every dog will suffer different changes that will make it uncomfortable. If dental plaque is not removed, it will team up with the minerals from saliva and they will form plaque that will destroy the tooth.

In addition, if plaque is not removed, it will penetrate the tooth under the gums, helping the emergence of several bacteria. Redness of the gums and bad breath are the first signs that predict the emergence of tartar. Because it irritates the gums, they get swollen and gingivitis occurs too. When gingivitis is not treated, it gets worse, transforming in periodontitis, which is extremely unpleasant for any dog.

Adult dogs infogprahic

The thin layers of dental plaque are not visible unless they are stained using a special solution or they are moved with the help of a periodontal probe. The result of a combination between bacteria in a matrix of extracellular polysaccharides, glycoproteins, epithelial cells, macrophages, lipids, carbohydrates, inorganic material and water, dental plaque is much more dangerous than it sounds.

Because of its composition, it cannot be removed by rinsing a dog’s mouth with water, but only through abrasive food, such as food rich in fibers, or by polishing teeth with a mechanical instrument. The regular technique for teeth brushing works as a preventive step for this affection, not as a cure.

Periodontitis is a very painful disease that leads to loss of teeth, abscesses, infections and weakens bone strength. Staphylococcus is a type of bacterium responsible for periodontitis that is considered the oldest living organism and is therefore extremely durable and adaptable. It is ubiquitous, passing from human to animal and vice versa. It is tolerated by both human and canine bodies up to a certain titer of circulating bacteria.

Also, it is opportunist and saprophyte, becoming pathogenic especially when its host’s immune system is deficient. It is highly resistant to physical, chemical and biological factors, it suffers mutations and it can become resistant to antibiotics as well.

This disease must be treated because of 2 important reasons, namely to keep a dog’s teeth and gums healthy and to prevent other infections from spreading in a dog’s body. The main factors that cause dental plaque, tartar and help the periodontal disease develop are age, general health, diet, breed, genetic factors, tooth shape, care and living environment.

According to some studies, dry food for puppies is much better than the canned one because it prevents plaque from building up on their teeth. Moreover, dogs that chew different toys that are specially made for them can remove some of the plaque deposited on their teeth by themselves.

Gum disease in dogs

Unfortunately, it was shown that small sized dogs are more likely to suffer from the periodontal disease because their teeth are placed too close to each other, thus making plaque easy to form and hard to remove. It goes without saying that regular tooth brushing reduces the chances of plaque, tartar and periodontitis development. In general, dogs keep their mouths open for a long while, fact which makes them salivate a lot. Saliva is often acid, so the formation of plaque is enhanced. However, this process can be slowed down if you brush your dog’s teeth at least 3 times per week.

For the best products to help your dog have cleaner breath, see our list of the topnotch teeth-cleaning products for dogs.

As said, the dental plaque undergoes mineralization because of the mineral intake from saliva and it forms tartar under the gums and above the gums. The plaque deposits are usually found on the surfaces of the premolars and first molar in dogs. The main component of tartar is calcium carbonate mixed with small amounts of other calcium deposits. Tartar causes gingivitis due to its rough surface on which new layers of plaque are continuously forming. The tartar located under the gums is different from the one located above the gums.

The first one is a lot darker than the second one. This happens because of the iron pigments found in the degraded hemoglobin and the bacterial production.

Symptoms of periodontitis in canines

The main signs that you should carefully watch for and which predict the occurrence of periodontitis in canine specimens are pus around the teeth, bad breath, bleeding gums, red and sensitive gums, tooth loss, loss of appetite, stomach pain, excess saliva, difficulty in eating or chewing, irritability and depression. Usually, this is also the order in which the symptoms occur. In case you did not notice the first ones, then you should know that your dog already has a serious dental problem and that you should take it to the vet for a consult and for starting an adequate treatment.

Treatments for tooth infections in canines

Treatments for the periodontal disease consist of implantation of roots, surgery, therapy and extracting teeth. Planting roots involves removing plaque and smoothing the root surface. This procedure is very difficult to achieve and requires months of practice and preparation. Moreover, the curettage below the gums involves the removal of the damaged tissue and epithelium. During this procedure, a part of the dog’s gum is removed.

The area where the excess tissue and the affected tooth are full of bacteria must be cleaned thoroughly. The surgery involves lifting a part of the gum above the tooth’s root in order to treat the disease more effectively. Recently, artificial products have appeared on the market that can be inserted in the gums of a dog meant to stimulate bone strengthening and to control periodontitis.

Dog on teeth surgery

Other treatment methods involve the use of antibiotics to prevent the production of dental plaque and the formation of different secretions. Extracting teeth is the most common treatment accepted by dog owners. In some cases, tooth extraction is the only solution. There are 4 stages of this disease. The first and second ones are not severe and they only require a strong dental hygiene with the help of special dog toothpaste and rinsing sprays or solutions.

Also, a dog’s diet must be nutritional and it should not affect its teeth in any way, not even by staining them. The third and the fourth phases usually require surgical interventions. Dogs need a large intake of analgesics and anti-inflammatory pills for several weeks after such surgery. The most common medications administered for 1 to 2 weeks to dogs are amoxicillin, clindamycin and others.

In general, these pills must be administered every month in the first 5 days in order to prevent postoperative infection. Medicines containing zinc and fluoride prevent or reduce dental plaque and must be applied regularly.

After surgery dogs are not allowed to chew on toys for a certain period of time, but you can purchase soft ones for them to play with. Depending on how difficult the surgery was, you might have to change your dog’s diet too. Sometimes veterinarians recommend dry food only because plaque and tartar are partially removed by it. Also, the veterinarian will have to explain for how long you should not brush your dog’s teeth and how long you need to wait for its gums to heal. In the first 2 to 3 months, you might have to use your finger as a toothbrush for your dog.

Dog brushing

Switching to a regular brush might cause gum bleeding, so it is not recommended. Dogs who suffered from periodontitis will always have to go to regular medical examinations. Some dogs need to go once per month, while others between 2 to 4 times per year. The frequency depends on the severity of the initial problem.

Periodontal disease can be prevented

Regular teeth cleaning at home and minimum dental care are enough to remove dental plaque and tartar that lead to the development of gum diseases and inconvenient oral infections. During a professional teeth cleaning, the veterinarian also examines a dog’s oral cavity thoroughly. Thus, he or she can observe broken teeth, unusual formations and even oral cancer if specific symptoms are present. While pointing out possible problems, solving them is much easier and it does not endanger your dog’s health.

However, cleaning a dog’s teeth is not as simple as it is with human teeth. Tranquilization or anesthesia is required in order to keep the dog quiet, comfortable and safe during the procedure.

Stages of periodontal disease

For this reason, your dog must first be examined and probably take a few tests depending on its age, medical history and so on. The blood test results might show potential problems and risks that have to do with administering an anesthesia. Based on these, the doctor will clearly know what type of anesthesia to use to keep your dog safe and comfortable.

During the actual teeth cleaning, tartar is removed from your dog’s teeth using special equipment, checking the gum line and removing deposits which occur due to the periodontal disease. At the end of the procedure, the doctor should apply an antibacterial solution to disinfect your dog’s oral cavity and to delay the formation of other deposits of tartar.

However, remember that your dog’s teeth require brushing at home too. Brushing your pooch’s teeth at home is very important to protect it from developing different diseases. Veterinarians recommend regular teeth brushing, at least 3 times per week. Daily brushing is ideal, but requires time and patience from both your side and your pet’s side. As mentioned before, the usage of toothpaste for humans is forbidden.

Dogs have a different pH than humans so, do not forget to buy a special kind of toothpaste for your canine pet that can be found in any pet shop. Also, while you are there, add a special antiseptic solution to your cart. There is also especially designed food for the prevention or the treatment of the oral cavity affections as well as rewards and snacks that have been shown to be very effective.

Conclusions for a dog’s oral cavity hygiene

Periodontitis is an irreversible disease in both humans and dogs. Therefore, it would be ideal to be identified as soon as it appears. The first signs of this affection are bad breath so, in case you skipped washing your dog’s teeth more than once this week, try not to skip it again. However, if the bad breath persists, then you should probably schedule a visit to the vet. You might think that a bad tooth can be removed and that a dog with dental problems is not a dog with notable health concerns. This could not be more false. See this post on proper brushing of dog’s teeth to learn more on how you can prevent periodontitis.

Brushing in 4 steps

Periodontitis has a strange way of affecting a dog’s gums and gathering a plethora of bacteria, which are released in a dog’s bloodstream while it does normal stuff, such as chewing on food. Next thing you know, your dog has heart or kidney issues out of the blue. An infection that spreads in an animal body or a human body is always bad news and has serious consequences.

Dogs are in as much pain as people are when they have an infected tooth or when their gums are bleeding and swollen. Take better care of yourself and of your beloved dog by getting your teeth and its teeth done rather than investing in useless objects or overnight curing solutions that are not really effective or really exist as presented. Health comes above all, so try to prevent not just the periodontal disease, but also every other health concern that you have power over before it even begins to manifest. Solutions are everywhere if you want to find them!

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.