Dental health is very important for dogs. It often starts with weekly or even daily teeth brushing and ends with checkups from his vet. But do you know the signs of periodontal disease in a dog? Every owner should learn the signs so you can catch periodontal disease before it becomes a life affecting and expensive problem.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is a disease that affects the gums of a dog, which, in turn, affects the teeth. It is usually very difficult to notice. In fact, many dog owners don’t see the signs until it has already devastated a dog’s mouth.
It is very common for dogs to suffer from periodontal disease. Up to 80% of dogs will have it at one point of their life and most will have it before they are 3 years of age. It is caused by bacteria in the mouth that builds plaque, a stick film, over the teeth after eating.
The plaque causes the body to send white blood cells to the mouth. However, the white blood cells do not listen to the body. Instead, the bacteria tells the white blood cells to release enzymes instead. These enzymes attack the gum issue and lead to the periodontal disease.
The disease is seen in four stages. These are:
- Stage 1: Gingivitis
- Stage 2: Early Periodontitis
- Stage 3: Established Periodontitis
- Stage 4: Advanced Periodontitis
Periodontal disease is difficult to treat. However, catching it early is the best method to slow the condition and even prevent further problems for your dog and his health.
What are the Risks of Periodontal Disease?
There are a number of risks associated with periodontal disease, which is why it is so important to know the signs. Specifically to the mouth, periodontal disease causes the following problems:
- Eroded gums
- Inflamed gums
- Bone loss
- Severe, chronic pain
- Loss of teeth
- Abscesses in the mouth
Without proper treatment, periodontal disease can also lead to:
- Damaged immune system
- Links to canine Alzheimer’s disease
- Damage to organs, including:
Sign Number One: Nasal Discharge
Although this symptom is more commonly seen when the upper jaw is infected by the disease, nasal discharge is a symptom that owners should take notice of.
Generally, the symptom occurs when an abscess has formed in one of the upper teeth. This leads to the pus in the abscess leaking into the sinuses, which causes sneezing and nasal discharge.
Sign Number Two: Bad Breath
We often think that dogs have bad breath but they shouldn’t. Instead, they should just have normal smelling breath, not great but not terrible.
With periodontal disease, what you are looking for is a breath that is sour or acrid in odor. This is not a normal smelling dog breath and means that there could be a problem. If your dog has abnormally bad breath for several days, take him to your vet for a checkup.
Sign Number Three: Plaque
Since plaque is the main reason why the periodontal disease occurs, you can often see it. This gives you an idea if your dog may have a problem.
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your dog’s teeth after he eats. It is a combination of food particles and saliva. If it is left on the teeth, it hardens into a bone-like substance called calculus, or commonly called tartar.
This is very difficult to remove and it damages the gum and teeth. The other risk of calculus is that it often hides any infections happening in the mouth.
Sign Number Four: Swollen Jaw
Dogs that have periodontal disease often suffer from swelling in the jaw. It is actually very evident when the jaw is swelling. However, you will see the swelling in different areas depending on whether it is upper or lower.
- Upper Jaw: The lump will be just under his eye sock.
- Lower Jaw: The lump will be close to your dog’s neck but still in his jaw.
The abscess in the jaw can burst and pus will seep from a small hole in the lump. It can also become even more infected so it is important to visit his veterinarian for treatment of both the abscess and the periodontal disease.
Sign Number Five: Inflamed Gums
Finally, an early sign of periodontal disease is through his gums. They will be red and inflamed and this is a sign that he has stage 1: gingivitis. Dogs with healthy gums should have a nice pink gum.
When they are red and inflamed, they will often bleed when the dog is eating or when you brush his teeth.
All of these symptoms can cause your dog to have trouble chewing so it is important to check your dog’s mouth if he isn’t eating.
By understanding the signs, you can catch periodontal disease before it advances to a higher stage. If you suspect periodontal disease in your dog, be sure to contact your vet. He will discuss a treatment plan and will work with you to prevent more damage to your dog’s gums.