Did you know that periodontal (gum) disease is the most common disease affecting dogs? Dental-related infections are among the most common conditions treated by veterinarians because symptoms usually do not become noticeable until the disease reaches a serious state. Estimates have been made that over two-thirds of dogs three years and older are suffering from different stages of periodontal disease. Periodontitis if left untreated can cause decay in your pet’s teeth and gum tissue—even the bone of their jaw. This information is alarming because good dog dental care can help prevent dental infections and should be part of your dog’s healthy grooming regime. So, it is important to understand what causes this disease, how to treat it, and how it can be prevented in the first place.
What causes gum disease in dogs? What are the symptoms?
Unfortunately, gum disease is frequently diagnosed in dogs, as it is produced by naturally occurring bacteria that already inhabit their mouths. When your pet eats, saliva and food particles come together to form a sticky layer of film over their teeth called plaque. The bacteria gather on the plaque, enter the gums, and make their way into the bloodstream. In retaliation, your pet’s body releases white blood cells, and the resultant battle between the cells and the bacteria produces enzymes that break down gum tissue.
Gum disease is five times more common in dogs than in humans, and consists of four stages:
- Stage 1: Early symptoms are mild—slight redness and inflammation of the gum tissue.
- Stage 2: The infection forms what is called periodontal pockets: gaps that gradually separate the roots of teeth from the gums.
- Stage 3: The periodontal pockets are now more than 5 millimeters deep. Actual bone loss occurs.
- Stage 4: Bone loss surpasses 50%. At this stage, tooth extraction is necessary.
Stage 4 gum disease can result in other serious complications when the bacteria spread to other parts of your dog’s mouth. Untreated infections eat away at the actual jawbone, resulting in fractures. (This symptom is common in small and toy breeds, as their bones are already fragile to begin with.) Another outcome is the development of an oronasal fistula: an unnatural gap between the mouth and the nasal cavity. Symptoms of this condition include chronic and unnatural amounts of nasal discharge.
Worse still, once bacteria enter the bloodstream, your dog’s liver, kidneys, and heart are susceptible to infection. For these reasons, it is imperative that you take steps to help prevent gum disease in dogs.
How to prevent gum disease in dogs.
Good dental hygiene for your dog is as important as your own dental hygiene. It should be included in a dog’s grooming regime. Keep teeth clean and gums healthy by brushing dog teeth daily. Dog toothpaste and toothbrushes are products which promote dental hygiene in dogs. Here at Lambert Vet Supply, we sell the C.E.T.® Dual-Ended Toothbrush and C.E.T.® Enzymatic Pet Toothpaste. These are ideal for at-home dental care, as the brush has soft bristles and is designed to conform to the mouth and teeth of pets; and the toothpaste features natural antibacterial qualities to eliminate bad breath and reduce the development of plaque.
Getting pets to sit still long enough to brush their teeth can be difficult. Fortunately, there are veterinarian-approved dental treats to help get around this problem. Lambert Vet Supply has several options for dog dental care products. Dental chew treats or dental chew bones have flavors which encourage dogs to gnaw on them, and as they chew, the texture rubs against their gums and teeth to help reduce tartar and plaque. Another dental hygiene prevention option is a drinking water additive which decreases halitosis and improves oral hygiene.
Of course, there is no proper substitute for regular dental cleanings by a licensed veterinarian. Many pets, especially older cats, and dogs require periodic professional teeth cleaning during their routine vet visits. Your veterinarian might take X-rays to assess your dog’s overall dental hygiene.