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Coming home to your dog after a long day is the best feeling in the world. Her tail wags so hard that her entire back half can’t help but go along for the ride.
You make your way to the couch. She drops her toy at your feet and is so excited that she is busting at the seams, panting as if she just ran a few laps around the yard.
And then you smell it…
The breath that makes you want to roll over and play dead.
You may be tempted to think that it’s just plain old doggy breath. All dogs have bad breath, right? Well, not exactly. Dental hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is for us. So if the breath gets a little too stinky (yours or Fido’s) it may signal deeper issues. Gingivitis is one very common cause of doggy breath. The good news is that there’s something you can do about it.
What is Gingivitis?
To put it simply, gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It’s the first sign that there is trouble brewing in your dog’s mouth. The next stages of gum disease are more serious, so it’s best to identify and tackle this issue early.
Plaque causes gingivitis. Plaque is the same icky stuff you brush and floss out of your own mouth every morning and night. It’s soft, sticky and colorless. It’s easy to let this stuff go undetected, and that’s why it’s important to be diligent about your dog’s dental hygiene. We’ll be sure to cover some tips to help with that too!
What Does Dog Gingivitis Look Like?
Gingivitis isn’t the prettiest thing to look at, so why are we showing it to you? Looking at dog gingivitis pictures may help you identify whether your dog has gum disease. In the early stages of gingivitis, you may notice that your dog’s gums are a bit puffier than usual. This inflammation is a sign that there’s a problem lurking. As the disease progresses, you’ll begin to notice more signs, including:
Symptoms of gingivitis in dogs
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Swollen gums (edematous gingiva)
- Red gums (erythemic gingiva)
- Bleeding gums
- Tartar buildup
How Do Dogs Get Gingivitis?
Dogs get gingivitis in the same way people do: Poor dental hygiene. It’s normal for plaque to form on a dog’s teeth. This is why we need to make a habit of brushing them often. If you skip brushing, the plaque produces toxins that can irritate the dog’s gums and cause gingivitis.
The most common bacteria that cause gingivitis in dogs are Streptococcus and Actinomyces. Although toy breeds are more susceptible to getting gingivitis, any dog can get gum disease.
In reality, what is harmful for a dog is when the plaque builds up and hardens.
It is recommended to brush your dog's teeth because this plaque slowly turns into tartar. This increase in tartar on the surface of its teeth migrates slowly under the gums and then causes inflammation and discomfort.
This is what we are talking about when we speak of gingivitis.
What Is Periodontal Disease And How Does It Develop In Dogs?
When gingivitis becomes advanced, the gums eventually detach from the surface of the teeth due to the presence of tartar and this creates a space, a perfect environment for the development of bacteria. This is how your dog develops gum disease.
In the more advanced stages of this condition, other supporting structures of the teeth can be affected, and the teeth can become mobile, abscesses can form under the teeth, and the supporting bones can even shrink.
The term "periodontal disease" or dental disease includes damage to all of these structures. So it's a more general term that includes gum disease and gingivitis.
By the age of three, most dogs exhibit signs of periodontal disease. So if your dog is showing early signs of gingivitis, you are not alone.
What Does Periodontal Disease Look Like In Dogs?
Periodontal disease is a disease that affects the supporting tissues of the teeth and creates a list of harmful consequences that affects your dog's comfort.
Read on to learn how to distinguish the differences between this and gingivitis. If your dog is suffering from periodontal disease, it might have some of the previous symptoms of gingivitis, as well as the following.
Symptoms of periodontal disease in dogs:
- Difficulty chewing
- Reluctance to eat
- Excessive drool
- Stained teeth
- Pus oozing from the gums (infection)
- Loose teeth
- Dental cavities (although extremely rare and indirectly related to periodontal disease)
- Bone loss (invisible to the naked eye)
What Are The Differences Between Gingivitis And Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease is the possible consequence of undetected or untreated gingivitis.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums created by the presence of tartar and bacteria on the teeth which has migrated under the gums.
Untreated, it develops into periodontal disease, and the support structures of the teeth are affected. Bones begin to deteriorate and teeth can become mobile and the surrounding tissue infected. It is described here in several stages.
The Stages Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs
Dog periodontal disease is divided into four different stages.
It is interesting to note that the veterinary surgeon will note the stage of periodontal disease for each tooth. An incisor could therefore be in stage I of the disease, while the premolar of the same dog could be in stage III.
Your dog may only have one of its teeth affected by this condition at this stage. It is suffering from mild gingivitis, which does not cause any detachment of the gum. It starts to have bad breath and you will notice tartar on its teeth. This stage is reversible by taking action.
Stage II is characterized by more advanced gingivitis. There is a loss of attachment of the tooth from the bone of less than 25%. It is therefore not impossible that a tooth will be slightly wiggly.
The tartar migrates under the gum and along the root of the tooth, and the gum begins to detach from the tooth. These spaces created are called periodontal pockets. At this stage these pockets are less than 5mm.
You may also notice a slight regression of the gums.
Already, in stage II, periodontal disease is irreversible. It is therefore important to treat it, so that it does not evolve further.
In stage III of periodontal disease, a lot more tartar is present on the teeth. Tartar often builds up more on the back teeth.
The alveolar bone (the bone that surrounds and supports the tooth) is further destroyed. This represents a bone loss of between 25 and 50%. The teeth are therefore less firmly anchored.
The gums are badly affected and the breath is unbearable. It is even possible to see the junction of the roots as the gum has receded.
At this stage, there is a detachment of the tooth from the bone of more than 50%. Periodontal disease is at a so-called severe stage. The affected teeth are wobbly, the furcation of the roots is visible, and the dog is definitely in pain.
One of the great dangers associated with this condition is caused by bone loss in the upper jaw. It can link with the nasal cavities and complicate treatment as an infection can migrate there.
A retrobulbar abscess is also possible while a dental abscess can spread behind an eye and therefore require more complex surgery.
Are Gingivitis And Periodontal Disease Reversible In Dogs?
In the very early stages of gum disease, it's possible to reverse the damage even from home naturally. So if your dog is only exhibiting signs of inflammation and redness, there is hope to get rid of the disease. But when the bone and connective tissue are involved, the damage is irreversible and can cause permanent harm to the dog’s teeth and jaw.
Continue reading to find out natural and home remedies to prevent and help your dog against gingivitis and even periodontal disease.
Veterinary Dog Teeth Cleaning
A dental cleaning at the vet begins with an oral exam. In this initial visit, the doctor or dentist will get a general idea of your pet’s condition and offer advice. This is a great time to ask questions about your dog’s health and treatment plan.
Dental Cleaning Cost For Your Dog
Professional dental cleanings can effectively treat dog gingivitis and stop the progession of periodontal disease, but this comes at a cost. For one, there's a steep financial cost. The average cost of getting your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned is $292, not to mention the costs of anesthesia.
On the other hand, once a certain stage of periodontal disease has been reached, descaling is necessary to treat your dog's gums. The tartar is then removed, which is impossible to do with a toothbrush.
Cleaning Under Anesthesia
Anesthesia is another thing about professional cleanings that gives pet owners pause. Whether the patient is human or canine, there are always risks with anesthesia.
One in 100,000 animals will have a reaction to anesthesia. These reactions can range from mild to severe. The worst possible reactions are anaphylactic shock and death. Although rare, the possibility of death from a cleaning is enough to scare many pet owners away from the doggy dental chair.
The veterinary examination under anesthesia is also much more complete. In addition, taking dental x-rays gives the doctor a lot of information on whether there is a tooth abscess or bone loss, which may require extractions to relieve your pet.
Anesthesia allows the vet to safely perform the cleaning.
The price and controlled risk of anesthesia is therefore often worth the effort, while the benefits of cleaning are much greater.
If you’re concerned with the cost or risk associated with anesthesia, you may have other options. There are effective ways to prevent and treat gingivitis and other gum diseases at home when it is done in time.
How to Prevent Dog Gingivitis And Periodontal Disease In Dogs
So clearly, gingivitis is bad. If your dog isn’t quite showing signs yet, there is still time for prevention. If your dog is showing early signs, it’s still possible to reverse gingivitis. And even if your dog has advanced gum disease, these prevention tips will help maintain your dog’s best possible dental health for the rest of his years.
Did you know that it only takes 36 hours for plaque to turn into gingivitis-causing tartar? Too many dog owners make the mistake of infrequent brushing. Dogs can get plaque as easily as we can, so it’s important to make a regular habit out of brushing their teeth. If possible, brush daily.
That’s the best case scenario. Every other day would be another great option. If you can’t fit that much doggy brushing into your schedule, remember that once a week is still better than nothing (or once a month). And if you’re having trouble fitting any brushing into your schedule, think about whether you truly have enough time to be a responsible pet parent. It may be a good time to reevaluate your schedule and shift some things around to make room.
Imagine not brushing your teeth for ten years! There’s nothing worse. Do your dog a favor and offer him good dental care.
If your dog is not a fan of the toothbrush, there are small cleaning wipes that you can wrap around your fingers that can make your job easier. Otherwise, get yourself a good beef-flavored dog toothpaste!
Besides, it’s important not to brush your dog's teeth with your own toothpaste, as they are not suitable for them.
Dry Dog food
Forget everything you may have heard. Dry dog food WILL help scrape some of the plaque off of your dog’s teeth between brushings, but it is not enough to keep your dog’s teeth plaque-free on its own. Bottom line: Get the dry kibble, but don’t rely on it to help you skip brushings. Also, remember that nutrition is important. You know how junk food is bad for your teeth? Well, it’s equally bad for your dog’s pearly whites. Avoid dog foods with wheat, corn and filler ingredients and stick to those with ingredients that add to your dog’s daily nutritional profile.
Much like the way that dry kibble helps knock plaque off of your dog’s teeth, hard chew toys can help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Choose chew toys like rawhides or harder rubber toys that are likely to cause some friction between the toy and the plaque. Toys like these are also more likely to keep your dog gnawing longer, which increases the likelihood that plaque will fall off.
You may have seen those green dog treats at your local pet shop. Maybe your veterinarian even recommended them. These treats promise to keep your pet’s mouth healthy because of the unique shape and combination of ingredients. The shape is designed to keep your pet chomping longer because it’s less likely that bits will break off. Included breath-freshening agents may help mask minor halitosis, but they will not have an effect on gingivitis. Bottom line is that these treats may help knock off some plaque, but they work best when combined with brushing and other healthy habits.
Mix one capsule of a probiotic supplement (for dogs or humans) with one tablespoon of coconut milk or kefir. This will promote the gum's health. Healthy gums is the best protection against gingivitis. Attacking the bacteria that cause the disease from within is also a good thing to do. The probiotic supplement works much in the same way as homeopathy in that it focuses on the dog’s overall wellbeing instead of simply treating symptoms.
How to Treat Dog Gingivitis At Home Naturally
Home treatments for doggy gingivitis have proven to be effective, but it’s important to note that it is easier to treat a mild case than an advanced one. So, be sure to check your dog’s mouth for signs of gum disease often.
Homeopathic Products have been used for centuries on dogs and humans to help bring them to a state of overall health and wellness. And that’s exactly how they work in cases of gingivitis in dogs.
At Homeoanimal, we start by learning about the pet’s overall health and recommend a custom solution to address all areas of the gums. In the case of gingivitis, this will likely include a product that helps the dog gums an teeth. You want to reduce tartar in your dog’s mouth. Tartar that has built up can be impossible to remove with brushing alone. Our products use natural ingredients to optimize the gums and teeth.
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Chlorhexidine is a disinfectant and antiseptic. It’s often used to sterilize surgical instruments, but you can also use it as a gingivitis rinse. Chlorhexidine works by binding to oral tissues and tooth surfaces. Over time, it gets released into the oral cavity. It is safe for pets, but most dogs won’t rave about the taste and it can produce tooth staining within a few days of usage. Buy a .2% rinse and squirt a small amount on the inside of each cheek once or twice a day. You can buy chlorhexidine in most pet stores. If you can’t find it in your area, ask your veterinarian.
Aloe Vera and Peroxide
Combine one part aloe vera gel with one part 3% hydrogen peroxide and apply a small quantity to gauze or a cotton swab to rub along your dog’s teeth.
Hydrogen peroxide is an antibacterial and antiseptic ingredient that can help fight plaque. And aloe vera can sooth sore gums affected by gingivitis.
If possible, apply the solution before bed after your dog finishes eating for the day. Do this every day for one to two weeks and you may notice that you can scrape some of the larger pieces of plaque from your dog’s teeth.
How to Treat Periodontal Diseases in Dogs?
If the vet evaluates your dog and finds that she has advanced gum disease, you may want to take stronger action. This may include tooth extraction as well as cleaning. The choice to go to the vet or not is completely your own.
Your vet would likely inform you that there are various stages of gum disease and let you know where your dog’s case falls between stage I and stage IV, as we discussed earlier. In stages one or two, many pet owners opt for home treatment. In stages three and four, most veterinarians will recommend extractions and maybe even gum surgery to stop the spread of the disease.
Along with extractions, your dog would receive a professional cleaning. What happens here is almost identical to what happens to you when you go to the dentist. The main difference is that dogs need anesthesia to be able to sit through the procedure. Even the best-behaved dogs will fight the digging in their mouths that dentists do.
The vet or veterinary dentist will give your dog canine anesthesia intravenously (for short procedures) or through a tube that goes into the windpipe (for longer procedures).
Your dog will need to take antibiotics for 1 to 3 weeks after the procedure.
Home Remedies For The Treatment Of Periodontal Disease In Dogs
The tartar must be removed otherwise the gums can never heal completely. You can review our previous section on cleaning your dog's teeth for more details.
That said, when facing the early stages of the disease, fighting gingivitis is an effective strategy. So you can check out the tips mentioned earlier on treating gingivitis. The best way to combat periodontal disease is to keep it from getting worse.
Our natural product GINGIVITIS OPTIMAL KIT is a good tool to have on hand at home if your dog starts to have tartar, red and sensitive gums and bad breath. It is helpful to have when your dog fight against the progression of periodontal disease in its early stages.
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Chlorhexidine mouthwash, Stomadhex patches and the house blend of Aloe Vera and peroxide are also great remedies that will help you control your dog's periodontal disease at home.
These natural treatments can slow the progression of the disease and help your dog regain control of its oral health after descaling, or even help to relieve their symptoms before visiting the veterinarian.
When Should I Take My Pet to the Vet?
It’s always a big decision to take your pet to the vet. Not only is it time consuming, but you can walk out of there spending hundreds more than you anticipated on procedures, tests or medications. But what should you do if you’re sure your pet has gum disease?
In this case, a vet visit is never a bad idea. In most cases, he or she will evaluate the tooth and likely recommend a professional cleaning. This may or may not be in line with your budget and concerns, but the evaluation could prove to be valuable.
If you see lumps, bumps, inflamed or bleeding gums, stains or damaged teeth, this is a good time for an evaluation.
If your dog has a thick layer of tartar on its teeth, it is quite possible that it is also suffering from periodontal disease.
What if Dog Gingivitis Or Periodontal Disease Goes Untreated?
Here’s where it gets scary. If you’ve been reading this far and think you have time, that this is a problem you can address somewhere down the line, please just read a bit further...
If you do not address your dog’s plaque and mineral deposits, they can cause gingivitis. This can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
It gets worse…
According to data from Banfield’s Applied Research and Knowledge (BARK) Team, pets with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease and experience other forms of organ damage. The connection may seem like a stretch until you learn that bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream. Once in the blood, bacteria can adhere to the arteries around the heart.
What You Can Do Now
Your course of action from here will depend on your dog’s age and current state of oral health. If you recently brought home a small puppy, let this information remind you of the importance of good oral health. Brush that puppy’s teeth as if they were your own.
If your dog is older and showing early signs of gingivitis (such as inflamed gums), scroll back up to the sections on prevention and home care.
If you’re noticing more advanced signs of gum disease, such as bleeding or recessed gums, consider taking your dog to the vet for an evaluation. There’s a chance your dog has large cavities in his or her teeth that must be extracted.
Here at Homeoanimal, we believe in helping with the health of the entire animal instead of helping against one symptom. So regardless of where your dog falls in the stages of gum disease, we recommend good oral hygiene and proper nutrition. Homeopathy can also help restore or maintain your pet’s state of health, including oral health. If you are interested in a custom made product, please contact us so we may learn more about your dog’s needs.