Poor oral health can not only cause bad breath in a dog, but it can also damage the dog’s teeth and gums, as well as periodontal disease, which can negatively affect the kidney, liver, and heart muscle.
A common type of periodontal disease, dog gingivitis, causes inflammation of the gums around the teeth and can act as a wake up call for owners to look to their dog’s pearly white white before more serious conditions develop.
Symptoms of gingivitis
- Bright red gums
- Swollen gums
- Excessive plaque and tartar build-up
- Bleeding gums, especially when brushing your teeth
- Receding gums
- Lose teeth
- Signs of pain
Until gingivitis progresses to a more advanced stage, dog owners can find it difficult to recognize on their own and their pet may not show any symptoms. Therefore, it is important that dogs be regularly examined by their veterinarian for any signs of gingivitis.
What Causes Gingivitis In Dogs?
Dr. Bert Dodd, clinical professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University, says gingivitis is very common in dogs, and every dog has it to some degree.
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As in humans, dog gingivitis is caused by plaque buildup on the tooth. This plaque is made up of food, saliva, and bacteria. An interaction between these foreign bacteria and the body’s immune system releases enzymes that break down the gum tissue and lead to inflammation.
In advanced stages, this can lead to chronic pain and gum erosion.
“If gingivitis is left untreated, it leads to periodiontis, or inflammation and destruction of the hard tissues around the tooth,” said Dodd.
Uncontrolled gingivitis not only increases the potential for heart, kidney, and liver disease, but in severe cases it can also lead to tooth defects and bone loss.
Is Gingivitis Preventable in Dogs?
Fortunately, gingivitis can be easily prevented through routine oral care habits. Dodd recommends brushing your dog’s teeth daily to remove harmful bacteria and prevent plaque from building up.
Although some dogs may not be resistant to brushing their teeth at first, Dodd says they will become accustomed to the practice over time through a regular routine.
Special dog toothbrushes and toothpastes that are safe for pets can be bought at most pet stores. When brushing a dog’s teeth, owners should never use human toothpaste as it is toxic to animals.
Continue reading: Learn how to brush your dog’s teeth.
Dodd also recommends having your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned every year. Many clinics have special dental care deals for the month of National Pet Dental Health in February. Now is the perfect time to contact your veterinarian.
If a dog develops gingivitis, it can be treated with teeth cleaning and debridement, or surgical removal of damaged tissue by a veterinarian.
Proper management of your dog’s oral health is important to their wellbeing. With routine care, owners can prevent serious oral health conditions from developing and ensure the continued well-being of their furry friend.