11 Symptoms of Gum Disease in Dogs
Dogs with gum disease will often experience pain and discomfort. Of the most common issues come from periodontal disease and broken, chipped, or fractured teeth, which can affect the gum (such as swelling and sensitivity).
Below, our Livonia, MI, animal hospital has listed 11 symptoms of dog gum disease below. But first, let’s look further into periodontal disease.
What is Periodontal Disease?
This is an infection that is associated with inflammation or the periodontium (the tissues of the gum surrounding the tooth). It starts as gingivitis, which is caused by bacteria in a dog’s mouth that forms an invisible layer of plaque and a biofilm (and plaque left on the tooth thickens and mineralizes into tartar), but it progresses and gets worse from there if left untreated.
Furthermore, if left untreated, the infection will spread deeper into the tooth socket, and the affected tooth will become loose and eventually fall out.
The best way to prevent periodontal disease is through daily brushing of your dog’s teeth. You can also give them special toys, treats, and special foods (i.e., “dental diets”) that assist in plaque removal. However, it should be noted that these special products are meant to reduce the formation of plaque and tartar. But once it is formed, only professional scaling and polishing under general anesthesia will be required for removal.
As already alluded to, scaling and polishing while a dog is under anesthesia is required once plaque and tartar is formed. Depending on the severity of the case, sometimes affected teeth will need to be extracted as well.
But before your pet is put under anesthesia, a vet will likely take blood tests to preemptively determine that the function of their organs (like liver, kidneys, etc.) is satisfactory. Also, sometimes antibiotic treatment is started before the periodontal therapy is performed.
Broken, Chipped, or Fractured Teeth
Dogs can also experience the breakage (partially or fully) of their teeth. Which, as already stated, can cause pain and irritability of the gums.
In dogs with healthy teeth, the center, called pulp, is covered by dentin and enamel.
However, when it comes to fractures, there are two types: (1) uncomplicated fractures, which involves the exposure of sensitive dentin and (2) complicated crown fractures, which involve the dentin but also extend deeper to expose the pulp—and that part of the tooth contains nerves and blood vessels.
Most fractures occur when dogs chew on hard objects (like ice, bones, nylon chews, horse and pig hooves, etc.).
In order to prevent your dog’s teeth from fracturing, it’s important to only provide them with toys or treats that can bend and “give” upon compression, limit games of fetch with hard items, and ensure that your pet gets their annual dental exams.
When it comes to safe toys, treats, diets, and devices, you can ask your veterinarian for recommendations or look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (vohc.org) seal of acceptance in decreasing the accumulation of plaque and tartar.
Once a fracture is discovered, there are really only two options when it comes to treatment and reducing further pain: root canal therapy or extraction of the affected tooth. However, there is an additional option for younger dogs (under 18 months) called vital pulp therapy.
Extraction is typically the absolute last resort, and a root canal will likely be performed instead on any broken tooth that does not expose the nerve.
Root canal therapy, on the other hand, involves the removal of the diseased tissue inside the dog’s mouth. Then instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal to prevent future bacterial contamination and save the tooth. A metal or tooth-colored crown may be placed following the root canal, depending on how much of the crown is missing. The dog’s lifestyle is also taken into consideration when making that decision.
Vital pulp therapy is also an option for younger dogs that have recently broken a tooth. This treatment keeps the tooth alive, and a layer of the pulp is removed in order to eliminate surface bacteria and inflamed tissue. Then, a medicated dressing and a protective barrier of dental composite are placed on the newly exposed pulp to allow for them to heal. However, teeth treated this way may require future root canals down the road.
Symptoms of Dental Disease in Dogs
Whether your dog is dealing with periodontal disease, a broken, chipped, or fractured teeth or another type of gum disease, they may experience a host of symptoms. Here are 11 of them:
- Bleeding or inflamed gums
- Discolored teeth (brown or yellow)
- Loose or missing teeth
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Irritability or sensitivity
- Weight loss
- Bloody or “ropey” saliva
- Loss in appetite
- Favoring one side of the mouth when chewing
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in water and food bowls or on chew toys
It should be considered, however, that dogs are good at hiding symptoms of dental and gum issues, and by the time they appear, your pet is likely in a significant amount of pain, and they will likely isolate themselves out of instinct to keep from showing weakness to predators. The best way to avoid a dog’s suffering associated with problems inside of their mouth is to establish a routine for consistent tooth brushing. Also, adherence to recommended veterinary appointments and eliminating hard toys and treats will also help make sure that your dog’s teeth and gums are nice and healthy.
Our Livonia, MI, Veterinarians Are Here if You Suspect Your Dog Has Gum Disease
If you suspect that your dog may have gum disease or anything abnormal inside of their mouth, please get them to a veterinarian right away. Ignoring even the smallest problem can have painful consequences for your beloved pooch.