Unlike you, your dog doesn’t brush his teeth two or three times a day to make sure his smile is sparkling white and his breath is fresh. Overseeing our pets’ dental health is something that we, as pet parents, need to do in order to ensure our animal companions a long and healthy life.
The bacterium that accumulates in your dog’s mouth and that causes periodontal disease is the same kind that can travel throughout his body and affect his kidneys, lungs, and heart. If you know what to look for when it comes to your dog’s teeth and mouth, you can be better prepared to deal with any problems that may arise.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
Detecting dental disease in your dog can be as simple as opening his mouth, looking inside at his teeth and gums, and smelling his breath. I have listed some of the things you should look for below:
- Bad Breath: The bacteria from decaying food that causes gingivitis and infection in your dog’s mouth also results in abnormally bad breath. We don’t expect doggy breath to be “minty fresh,” but any type of sour, acrid odor is indicative of some kind of disease process in your pet’s mouth or other internal organs. (Yes, cats can have bad breath too.)
- Inflamed Gums: Also called “gingivitis,” the disease that causes your dog’s red, inflamed and sometimes bleeding gums is a result of the bacteria that linger in his mouth from food left in his teeth. This bacterium typically gathers under the gum line around the roots of the teeth and can cause an infection that leads to tooth loss, bone degeneration and, in severe cases, possible major organ disease.
- Plaque and Calculus: Dental plaque is composed of the food particles and saliva that mix together to form a sticky film on your dog’s teeth. If the plaque is left on the teeth, it will harden into a thick, bone-like formation called calculus (or tartar), which can cover the entire tooth and hide an underlying infection.
- Swollen Jaw: Often, when infection gathers around the tooth root and creates an abscess, swelling of the jaw occurs that is visible to the naked eye. There will be a lump either on the lower jaw close to your pup’s neck or on the upper jaw just under his eye socket. Sometimes, if the abscess becomes large enough to burst, it will break through the skin covering it and you’ll see pus seeping onto your dog’s fur from a small hole in the lump.
- Trouble Chewing: You may notice that your dog is having trouble chewing his food, or that he’s stopped chewing altogether and is just gulping it down. If you look inside his mouth, you may also see loose or missing teeth where the tooth roots have detached from the bone because of disease. Rotting, infected teeth and gums can be extremely painful, and loose teeth can cause your pet to stop using his mouth to break up his food.
- Nasal Discharge and Sneezing: When your dog’s gums become infected on his maxilla (upper jaw), the roots of the teeth can abscess, creating pockets of pus and infection that can reach up into his sinus cavities. When the sinuses become infected, your pup can develop a runny nose and begin sneezing.
In this quick video, veterinarian Glenn Brigden, DVM, provides an overview of periodontal disease. Watch this first, then we’ll discuss your options upon diagnosis: