Gum Disease in Dogs

Some factors contributing to the build-up of plaque and tartar that can lead to gum disease are:

  • Age and general health status
  • Diet and chewing behaviour
  • Breed, genetics and tooth alignment
  • Grooming habits
  • Home care
  • Mouth environment
Gum disease can damage other parts of the body

Periodontal disease can affect more than just your pets mouth, as the toxins from any gum infections are absorbed into the blood stream. This means that as the kidneys, liver and brain filter the blood, small infections occur causing permanent and at times fatal organ damage. The adverse effects of periodontal disease are due in part to the toxins the bacteria secrete and the damage these toxins cause to delicate kidney, cardiac and brain tissue.

In addition, many veterinarians believe that actual bacterial colonies can spread via the circulation and settle within the animal’s tissues, commonly in the heart valve areas, kidneys and liver, and cause significant problems down the track. Far better than extracting teeth, performing gingival flaps, filling erosions or doing root canal procedures, would be to prevent the health damaging periodontal disease in the first place. The good news is that after periodontal disease is treated, and pet owners give proper home care, most pets respond well due to the decreased pain and infection.

Breed and genetics contribute to gum disease

Gum disease in dogs is more common in smaller breeds than larger breeds, as their smaller amount of bone in the jaw leads to more rapid loss of teeth if preventative steps are not taken. We need to be much more proactive in these small breeds to prevent gum disease and tooth loss.

Greyhounds have a known genetic predisposition to severe periodontal disease. Brachycephalic (short nosed) breeds have a much higher incidence of missing and possibly un-erupted teeth, crowded teeth and resulting periodontitis.

Knowing this at an early age can prevent much in the way of severe damage to the bone and associated tissues.

Age contributes to gum disease

Pet dental care needs to be continuous from the time a pet is young. By the time your pet is a ‘senior’, the effects of dental neglect will be evident and could potentially shorten your pets life. Rotting teeth can cause gum and mouth infections, and as mentioned earlier, these infections can migrate to the vital organs and cause serious damage. Periodontal disease is extremely common in older pets, and one of the more serious health problems that occurs. Basically it is the overwhelming presence of bacteria in the plaque that adheres to your pet’s teeth.

Keep up your dog’s chewing habits

As a pet ages, it gets lazier about chewing its food and playing with chew toys. Your pet may develop a preference for softer food. It may give only a few half-hearted nudges to the toys and bones it once gnawed on happily for hours. A gradually diminishing interest in chewing is normal as a dog ages; but if your dog stops chewing suddenly or looks like it is eating ‘gingerly’, it may be a sign that its teeth and gums are hurting and need professional attention.

Have your vet check your older pet’s teeth at regular exam time, but also do it immediately if you notice a sudden change in your pet’s chewing or eating behaviour. If your vet recommends that your pet’s teeth be cleaned under anaesthesia, you should be informed about the risks.

All Sydney Animal Hospitals clinics have the most up-to-date equipment and fully trained vets and staff to keep on top of any dental issue your pet may have. We also have the best facilities to lightly sedate your dog to reduce any potential for trauma or discomfort.