Canine Periodontal Disease (Dog Gum Disease)

Dog gum disease is one of the most common conditions affecting canines. Since dogs don't like to have their teeth brushed, gum health often gets neglected, but it can cause serious damage over time.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Canine gum disease is caused by an accumulation of bacteria around the teeth that settles into the dog's gums. As the pockets of bacteria around the tooth grow, the gums are slowly destroyed while the tooth remains intact and unharmed.

Gum disease often has few recognizable symptoms because dogs are relatively unaffected until the end stages of the disease. Gums may appear inflamed or may bleed while eating bones or other tough substances. Dogs also may have pain when eating, but this won't appear initially. Your dog may also have a strange odor to his breath.

If left untreated, gum disease can lead to other illnesses, such as heart, liver or kidney disease. This results from the buildup of bacteria breaking off and moving to other organs when your dog eats or drinks. Thus, proper dental care is important to prevent worse problems later in life.

Diagnosis of Gum Disease

The only way to truly diagnose gum disease is a complete dental exam while your dog is under anaesthetic. Though there are anaesthesia-free cleanings offered, a complete dental exam can't be done without it. It's often quite painful for your dog, especially if gum disease is detected.

Dog gum disease is detected with a probe placed into the pockets around your dog's teeth to measure the depth. If the pockets are too large, gum disease is diagnosed. Three levels of canine gum disease are mild gingivitis, treatable periodontis and end-stage periodontis, which is basically irreversible.

The first two stages can be treated with dental scaling, which removes all the bacteria pockets from your dog's teeth and underneath his gums. End-stage periodontis, however, usually can only be treated with tooth removal. In severe cases, the tooth will already be loose because the bacterial pockets have almost completely disconnected it from the gums.

Prevention of Gum Disease

Gum disease is preventable in dogs, just as it is in humans, with proper dental care. You should brush your dog's teeth on a regular basis, ideally every day. If your dog is hesitant to allow this, slowly build up the process.

Lift your dog's gums and give him a treat as soon as he stops struggling. End the session and try more later. Slowly build up to putting the tooth brush in his mouth and brushing just a few teeth. Reward every session. Eventually, you will have taught your dog to stand still for an entire brushing. If you don't like using a tooth brush, finger brushes and gloves are also available.

Allow your dog to taste the toothpaste. There are many flavors available, such as chicken and peanut butter. Your dog may like the taste. However, don't use human toothpaste, which is designed to be spit out.

If you don't want to brush your dog's teeth, there are many other options available, such as food additives that reduce plaque, oral rinses that can be added to water and chew toys that remove plaque. No matter which method you choose, don't neglect your dog's dental health.