Periodontal Disease in Dogs

4 min read
Jan 18, 2022

Periodontal disease is essentially a gum disease caused by bacteria.  It can be devastating to your dog’s mouth. Immediately after a meal, bacteria, saliva and food begin to form plaque in your dog’s mouth. The bacteria in your dog’s plaque is viewed as foreign to your dog’s body, which causes white blood cells to release enzymes to break down the gum tissue to ‘help’ your dog.

Symptoms of Periodontal DIsease

  • Pain
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tissue destruction
  • Bone loss
  • Loss of teeth

Periodontal disease is five times more common in dogs than humans. Why is this? A dog’s alkaline mouth promotes the formation of plaque. Many dogs do not often get their teeth brushed on a daily or weekly basis either which leads to additional plaque formation.

Unfortunately, symptoms do not appear immediately. Often, you will not notice your dog has periodontal disease until the disease has advanced. At this point, your dog may be in constant pain.

Signs Your Dog May Have Periodontal Disease

Additional signs your dog has periodontal disease may include the following:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Bleeding gums
  • Red inflamed gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Bloody saliva
  • Nasal discharge

Dogs with periodontal disease may also at a higher risk for developing heart, kidney and liver disease. A fractured jaw is also a common complication of periodontal disease.

How Do I Prevent Periodontal Disease?

In order to prevent periodontal disease, there are several measures to be taken.

  • Brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis — minimizing the bacteria present in your dog’s mouth will assist your dog in maintaining good oral health.
  • Annual veterinary teeth cleaning — veterinarians also recommend an annual visit to have their teeth checked and cleaned. Oral exams and cleanings are done under general anesthesia. The oral examination done by your veterinarian allows them to take an up-close look at the health of your dog’s mouth.
  • Feed your dog high-quality dog food — this will also assist with reducing the risk of periodontal disease. If you feed your dog dry kibble, the dry kibble assists in cleaning your dog’s teeth and increasing oral health. Of course, some dogs refuse to eat dry kibble and would rather eat canned food. If your dog eats canned food, search for some chewing toys specifically designed for oral health. Greenies, for example, developed by Nutro Products Inc. assist with cleaning your dog’s teeth.

Treatment for Periodontal Disease in Dogs

Stage 1 of Periodontal Disease
In stage one, your dog’s gums may simply be red and inflamed. In this stage, a cleaning below and above the gum line is necessary. Many dogs are already out of this stage by the time they are showing more severe signs of an issue. This is why preventative veterinary cleanings from the time your dog is a puppy is imperative to catch periodontal disease early.

Stage 2 of Periodontal Disease
In stage two, there are pockets between the gum and teeth but there is not yet any damage to the bone. In this stage, treatment consists of cleaning your dog’s mouth and placing a gel to reattach the gum to the root of your dog’s teeth.

Stage 3 of Periodontal Disease
In stage three, the pockets around the teeth are deep, meaning bone loss is now occurring. Cleaning the tissue around the tooth root and the bone is necessary in this stage. There are newer treatments which promote the growth of new tissue and bone. You will want to discuss options with your veterinarian.

Stage 4 of Periodontal Disease
In stage four, the final stage of the disease, diagnosis is determined by how much damage has been done to the bone. When bone loss is more than 50%, your dog is in the final stage of periodontal disease and the only treatment is removal or extraction of the affected teeth.

Prevention is Key

Taking the proactive steps to ensure your dog has good oral health is imperative. Be certain to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis, and provide him with items to chew on and search for ones specifically designed for oral stimulation. Just as we humans need to take care of our teeth, our dog’s teeth must be cared for as well.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.