While we often pay attention to the teeth of our dogs, the gums that support them are equally important. They are often overlooked. Gum disease is a common problem in dogs. Studies have shown that almost 90% of American dogs suffer from some form of periodontal disease by the age of two.
Mouth bacteria can cause this progressive disease that damages the bones and gums. Periodontal disease can be invisible until it causes severe damage to the gums and bones. Prevention is therefore a key strategy.
Periodontal disease is a condition that can affect dogs.
poor dental hygienegeneticsmalocclusion (having a misaligned bite)the shape of a dog’s mouth.
Brachycephalic dogs (those with short snouts), small and toy breeds, and overweight dogs are more at risk than others.
How to diagnose periodontal disease in dogs
The “fang” is the dark-red line that runs just above the tartar-encrusted dog’s canine tooth (the “fang”), which indicates the presence periodontal disease below your gum line. (c) Nancy Kerns
Periodontal disease can be diagnosed by a veterinarian by looking for abnormal spaces between the teeth and gums, and taking x-rays of the dog while it is under general anesthesia. Periodontal disease cannot be diagnosed accurately without dental x-rays.
Gingivitis is the first stage. It involves gum inflammation without any bone loss or tooth separation. You may notice red, puffy, or bleeding gums when you chew or brush. The only stage of periodontal disease that can be reversed is this one. All others are permanent.
Stage 2 can lead to tooth loss up to 25%, moderate bone loss and mildly abnormal periodsontal pocket depths. These are spaces below the gum line around teeth. Recessive gums are a common symptom in Stage 2.
Stage 3 is characterized by a loss of 25- 50% of tooth support. This stage causes loose teeth in addition to the symptoms described above. To save the teeth that have been affected by this stage, advanced dental procedures and home care are required.
Stage 4 is the most severe stage of periodontal disease. X-rays or periodontal probing can show more than 50% tooth loss. Stage 4 symptoms include tooth root exposed, missing or loose teeth, pus oozing around the teeth, and tooth root exposure. This stage is treated with tooth extraction and dogs suffering from this condition are likely to die.
As dogs develop periodontal disease:
Dogs may flinch when someone tries to inspect their teeth. They may change their chewing patterns or smack their gums. If their gums hurt, they won’t tolerate being brushed.
Dental disease, if left untreated, can adversely affect all organs of the body, including the liver, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. Systemic poisoning is the constant release of bacteria from the mouth to the rest. According to a study published in the April-June 2021 Open Veterinary Journal, cognitive dysfunction in aging dogs is linked with periodontal disease. It is a worthwhile investment to keep your dog’s teeth healthy in old age.
How to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy
Check your dog’s teeth for signs of tartar, gingivitis and plaque to prevent problems. If you brush your dog’s teeth daily, this is simple. If she doesn’t have her upper lip lifted, you can look at her side and front teeth. Next, pull her corner back to see her top and bottom teeth. Repeat the process on the opposite side. Regular checks will alert you to any immediate needs, such as broken teeth or anything caught between the teeth.
Gingivitis can be diagnosed early by a thin, red line at the gumline. This may become more severe as the disease progresses. An extensive exam with x-rays will reveal the extent of periodontal diseases and help to determine the best treatment. Your at-home care and prompt veterinary attention can help to prevent more damage.
Dental plaque is a sticky and colorless biofilm made up of microorganisms. It forms between, in front, and behind your teeth on chewing surfaces and along and under the gumline. Plaque forms continuously on tooth enamel, and can only be removed by flossing, brushing, or any other mechanical means. Tartar, also known as dental calculus or plaque, builds up on teeth and can often turn brown or pale yellow.
Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can help prevent tarter and plaque buildup. While it is easier to teach brushing to puppies or young dogs, older dogs can be trained to do so. This inspiring story demonstrates how effective home care can be. WDJ December 2014, “Save Your Dog’s Teeth with Home Care”
Alternatives to Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth With a Toothbrush
Consider adding poultry-flavored toothpaste to your dog’s food, or water, to help with gingivitis and plaque.
The pet water additives are sold as breath fresheners. They claim to improve digestion, nutrient absorption and make dogs smell better. Each bowl of water is given a small amount, about a quarter cup. They may contain micronized minerals or digestive enzymes that help to reduce plaque and tartar buildup.
Some of these additives may contain xylitol which is a toxic sweetener with no calories that can be harmful to dogs. Although small amounts are safe for dogs according to the label directions, some veterinarians worry that daily intake of xylitol could pose a danger. Make sure you read the label before buying xylitol-containing products.
Success depends on the product as well as how it is introduced to your dog; start with smaller-than-recommended quantities and respect your dog’s preferences.
Probiotics (or beneficial bacteria) are known to prevent plaque and tartar buildup in humans. This has led some manufacturers to produce oral health supplements for dogs. Although no specific probiotic strains have been shown to be effective in removing plaque and tarter from dogs, some vets who recommend probiotics to dogs have seen improvements in their patients’ dental health.
What you need to know about dogs, bones and chewing
Raw bones can be used to clean your teeth and gums, as well as providing you with chewing pleasure and jaw exercise. Broken teeth can be caused by bones, especially if the bones are too large or too small for dogs to reach between their molars. Marrow bones pose a risk. Knuckle bones are safer due to their shape, especially for large dogs or aggressive chewers. You will get the best results if you feed fresh, raw bones. Once the meat is gone, remove them before they dry out. Don’t cook bones as they can cause splintering and should be avoided.
Some chew toys keep dogs busy, while others, such as Zesty Paws’ Probiotic OraStix provide beneficial bacteria to support the oral microbiome. Nylabone Dental Chew Bones are made from flexible thermoplastic polymer and have dental tips that help reduce plaque buildup. To improve your dog’s gum health, you can give her safe chew toys.
How healthy dog gums look like
For a few seconds, hold your thumb and press down on the spot where you feel the dog’s gums. When you take your thumb off, be sure to watch where you press. (c) Nancy Kerns.
Did you know that your dog’s gum color can tell you a lot about her health? These indicators will help you identify and treat a range of health issues in your dog.
Begin by identifying the normal behavior of your dog.
Check the gums above a canine teeth by lifting your dog’s upper lips. This is the baseline color for your dog’s gum health, so make sure to check it frequently. While most dogs have pink gums, some breeds have darker or more pigmented gums. Color changes in healthy gums can be difficult to spot if they are dark, thick, or naturally colored. You can check the inner eyelids of your dog by gently pulling them down. This will allow you to see the color of the tissue. The gum should be either white or pale pink after you let go of the pressure. It should return to its natural color in no more than 1.5 seconds. The capillary refill time (or CRT) is the time it takes for the gum to return to its natural color. A slow CRT of more than 2 seconds can indicate dehydration, poor circulation or low blood pressure. The most severe of these conditions is shock. You can increase water intake for dogs with mild dehydration symptoms. If your dog is not suffering from severe dehydration, you can increase its water intake.
Colors of dog gum that are unhealthy
These are all serious conditions that need medical attention.
Jaundice, or icterus, refers to a yellowish tint to the skin and gums. It’s caused when there is too much bilirubin. (c) Catherine Ashe DVM.
The appearance of blue gums is due to a deficiency in oxygen (cyanosis). This can be caused by congestive heart failure (Pneumonia), congestive heart disease, pulmonary embombolism, hypothermia, or other health emergencies, such as choking and hypothermia. Blue gums in dogs require immediate medical attention.
A danger sign is pale pink or white gums. This could indicate acute blood loss, or other diseases that can cause anemia.
Bright cherry red gums may indicate heat stroke, overheating, carbon monoxide poisoning or elevated blood pressure. These conditions require immediate medical attention. Heat stroke: In addition to calling your veterinarian immediately, pour cool water on the dog and offer water. Wet the feet with cold water. Wrap a towel around the head.
A mildly reddening of the gums could indicate a topical irritation such as that caused by enthusiastically chewing on a toy or a serious infection like gingivitis. These symptoms aren’t considered medical emergencies. However, you should monitor them and consult your veterinarian if they persist.
Gingivitis, gum disease, growths or sensitivity could cause bleeding gums. If bleeding persists for more than 10 minutes, emergency treatment may be necessary.
The presence of yellow gums could indicate liver problems, anemia and/or the destruction or red blood cell loss.
Experts warn against anesthesia-free tooth cleaning for dogs
A white spot will appear where your thumb has pressed the blood from the tissue. However, the spot should return to its original color within less than 1.5 seconds. (c) Nancy Kerns.
Owners who are concerned about their dog’s health and want to avoid anesthesia for their pets love anesthesia-free dentistry. However, it is difficult to get even the most well-mannered dog to stop cleaning below the gum line. This is the most important area to clean to prevent periodontal disease. Mary Straus, a canine health researcher who runs DogAware.com, says that anesthesia-free dentistry is cosmetic procedures that don’t harm your dog and can even mask problems.
Are you suffering from unhealthy gums? It could be Canine Gum Disease Whole Dog Journal.