Pyorrhea in Dogs

Pyorrhea is an advanced state of gum disease in dogs that can lead to bone or tooth loss if left untreated. However, with regular at-home and veterinary dental care, pyorrhea is easily prevented.

Four out of five adult dogs over the age of 3 have some degree of dental disease, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, and the problem gets worse as the dog gets older. Smaller breeds seem to have more dental problems than larger breeds, and this may be because the 42 permanent teeth that a dog has don't fit as well into the mouth of a Yorkshire terrier as they do into the mouth of a German shepherd. Pugs and Yorkshire terriers seem particularly prone to gum disease, although it can develop in any purebred or mixed-breed dog.

Signs of Pyorrhea

Pyorrhea is the third stage of gum disease in your dog. The first stage is gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums that results from a buildup of plaque and tartar in the dog's mouth.

This is followed by the second stage of problems, periodontal disease, in which the gums start to become infected as a result of untreated gingivitis. Pockets of pus begin to develop at the base of affected teeth because the dog's gums have pulled away from the teeth, leaving them prone to infection.

Signs that your dog may be developing pyorrhea include bone loss at the base of the teeth, plaque and tartar buildup on the dog's teeth and gums, redness, inflammation, appetite loss, bad breath, pockets of pus at the base of the dog's teeth or actual tooth loss. Other organs in your dog's body, including his liver, kidneys and heart, can be affected by gum disease because the bacteria that cause the gum disease travel through his bloodstream to other organs. Older dogs with pyorrhea may also develop kidney infections or endocarditis (an infection of the lining of the endocardium, the inner layer of the heart).

Some Breeds Are More Prone to Pyorrhea

Certain breeds seem to be prone to dental problems such as periodontal disease and pyorrhea. Affected breeds include the dachshund, the miniature schnauzer and the Yorkshire terrier. If your dog is one of these breeds, you need to be extremely vigilant in maintaining his teeth and gums to help ensure his overall health.

Treatment for Pyorrhea

Your veterinarian will probably prescribe antibiotics for your dog to treat the infection that caused the pyorrhea. Your dog may also have to have some or all of his teeth extracted, and he may have to have additional oral surgery to treat or remove diseased bone.

Prevention Methods for Pyorrhea

A combination of at-home and professional preventive care can help your dog avoid pyorrhea. As part of his annual checkup, your dog should have his teeth scaled, which is a thorough cleaning above and below the gumline that is done while your dog is anesthetized. Your dog's teeth will also be polished and rinsed to remove any harmful materials, and any problems will be addressed by your veterinarian.

Regular at-home brushing with a soft-bristled brush and special pet toothpaste helps control food residue and plaque on your dog's teeth. Dental chews or dental diets may also help control any buildup that may form on your dog's teeth between professional cleanings.