Gum Disease in Dogs: Symptoms, Prevention, and Treatments

Gum disease in dogs is often a tricky health problem to spot. It is fairly common for dogs, especially since most dog parents don’t look inside their dog’s mouth on a regular basis. Humans care for their own teeth daily, yet they often neglect their dog’s dental health. After all, dogs are extremely difficult when it comes to any type of teeth cleaning, but that’s still no excuse. Luckily, if you are worried about your dog getting gum disease, there are plenty of treatments and ways to prevent it from happening.

What is Gum Disease in Dogs?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is caused when dental plaque and tarter builds up too much on your dog’s teeth. It affects both the teeth and gums, causing inflammation and irritation in your dog’s mouth. If left untreated for long periods of time, it can also cause gum infections, bone loss, and even the loss of teeth.

You might not notice gum disease early on, which is why dental care is such a crucial part of your dog’s health. Cleaning their teeth regularly can help prevent these major problems from happening. So, when you brush your dog’s teeth, you should also try to get a look inside your dog’s mouth. As much as your dog probably hates you inspecting their teeth and gums, you need to keep an eye out for abnormalities before it’s too late.

While humans can also get gum disease, it is about 5 times more likely for dogs to get it than humans. Not only do dogs often get their teeth cleaned less than humans, but they also have high amounts of alkaline in their mouths. That makes it easier for bacteria to form around their teeth and gums, resulting in plaque.

Abnormalities to Look out for

When checking your dog for gum disease, there are lots of things to look out for. Healthy gums should be a bubble gum pink color, free of irregular bumps and cuts. If your dog has a gum disease, the color of their gums will be pale and sickly. So, it’s important to take note of what your dog’s gums usually look like in order to more easily notice when something is wrong.

Luckily, if you pay close attention, there are many symptoms you may notice. One of the most common signs is bad breath that is noticeably worse than usual. They could also have loose teeth, problems chewing and picking up food, or bloody saliva. To better understand if your dog has a serious dental problem, there are a few physical symptoms that you may be able to spot in your dog’s mouth, each with slightly different causes and treatments. The following are possible gum problems your dog could face.

Pale Pink or White Gums

If something is wrong with your dog’s gums, they might turn a white or pale pink color. This is often a sign of sudden blood loss, which could be caused by anemia, which means the body doesn’t have enough blood to circulate, hence the lack of pigmentation in the gums.

Bright Red Gums

Bright red gums can have a few different causes, such as gingivitis, stomatitis, and heat stroke. If your dog is overheating, their gums will often turn red as they pant to try to cool down. However, red gums could also signify that the gums are inflamed or infected, which could make the gums bleed more easily.

Blue Gums

Blue gums mean that not enough blood is being circulated through your dog’s body. As a result, their gums could have a blue or purple tint to them. This isn’t necessarily the same as periodontal disease, but it could be caused by pneumonia, congestive heart failure, or other respiratory problems.

Growths on Gums

Growths on your dog’s gums could be a sign of an oral tumor. Sometimes, growths can go away on their own, but in extreme cases they could be contagious or even cancerous. One example is papillomatosis, which is when multiple pink, fleshy warts appear on your dog’s gums. It can easily spread from dog to dog. Therefore, you should always consult your vet about a growth in your dog’s mouth because it could be more serious than you think.

Bleeding Gums

A dog’s gums usually bleed when they’re extremely sensitive to something. Growths, gingivitis, and stomatitis are all possible causes for bleeding gums. There is almost always a serious underlying cause for bloody gums in dogs.

Preventing Gum Disease in Dogs

Gum disease in dogs in a serious matter, but it can be prevented by taking extra precautions. Cleaning your dog’s teeth might not seem crucial until something serious happens. However, it’s best to practice regular dental care for your dog to prevent future problems from happening.

Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Like humans, dogs should get their teeth brushed daily. For some dog parents, it can be a difficult task if their dog puts up a fight, but the more you do it, the more normal it should feel for them. If your dog isn’t used to getting their teeth brushed, you should be patient with them and slowly ease them into more regular brushings.

Feed Your Dog Quality Food

There is a common myth that eating kibble will help clean your dog’s teeth. However, kibble is a processed food, and eating food is often the reason we need to brush teeth in the first place. In fact, dry dog food can actually harm your dog’s teeth more than help. Certain brands provide formulas specifically made for cleaning your dog’s teeth, but it’s not as effective as it sounds. Food will never be able to clean teeth the way brushing can, so avoid cheap, low-quality kibble if possible.

Take Them to Oral Exams and Cleanings

If you have a difficult time cleaning your dog’s teeth on your own, you might want to have a professional handle it from time to time. Vets often have a way to deep clean your dog’s teeth to better prevent gum disease and other dental-related problems. With oral exams, your vet can get an x-ray of your dog’s teeth to get a closer look at what’s happening in your dog’s mouth.

Choose Toys That are Safe for Chewing

For dogs that like to play, they probably spend a lot of time chewing on toys. However, if they chew on something that’s too hard, they could damage their teeth in the process. So, try to look for durable toys that are a bit softer, such as rubber balls. There are also specific toys and bones that are made to benefit your dog’s dental health simply when they chew on it.

Treating Gum Disease in Dogs

Treatment for canine gum disease varies based on what’s wrong with your dog’s gums. It’s common for most dogs to get some form of gum disease in their life, but there are different stages to this health problem. Therefore, how you treat it will depend on which stage they’re on.

Here are the stages of gum disease in dogs:

  • Stage 1 – Some swelling, redness, or inflammation in the gums. The only treatment needed is to have a more thorough dental cleaning, consisting of cleaning above and below the gum line.
  • Stage 2 – When there are mild to moderate amounts of bone and ligament loss between the teeth and gums. This could prevent the teeth from being held in place like they’re supposed to. This requires a further deep cleaning, including being cleaned and rinsed before reattaching the tooth and gum together.
  • Stage 3 – A more serious version of stage 2, where up to 50% of the tooth support has disappeared. It won’t look visibly different to the naked eye, but it needs even more thorough cleaning to properly reattach the tooth.
  • Stage 4 – When the bone loss is over 50%, and it is much easier to spot. Surgery will need to occur at this point, which likely means extractions are needed.

The first three stages could easily go unnoticed, which is why it is so important to keep up on your dog’s dental health. Your vet can take a closer look at your dog’s teeth to inform you which stage your dog has, which will determine how severe the treatment is. Luckily, the earlier on you catch it, the easier the treatment will be for both you and your dog. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your furry friend’s health.

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