Periodontal disease is a common medical issue among our canine companions. By the third year of age, close to 80% of the dog population exhibit some form of periodontal disease or another. Unfortunately, since not all dog parents pay close attention to their dogs' dental health, the chances of our canines dealing with swollen, inflamed gums, plaque, and tartar are very high. Moreover, the health hazards caused by poor oral hygiene are not restricted to the oral cavity alone. The mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, and periodontal disease, if left untreated, will damage other organs and generate an imbalance in your dog's microbiome.
Today, we will talk about canine periodontal disease and teach you all about the deep connections between healthy teeth and gums and a healthy dog.
The Role of the Oral Microbiome in Your Dog’s Oral Health
The mouth is not just a pathway for food to enter the body; it's also a vital component in your dog's immune system. Its own microbiome (i.e., the vast number of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that inhabit the mouth) is one of the dog's first lines of defense against foreign organisms. When these foreign organisms enter the mouth, the oral microbiome intervenes and outnumbers the intruders, preventing them from reaching the rest of the body. However, oral health diseases, such as canine periodontal disease, can affect the oral microbiome's effectiveness because the chronic inflammation is degentrating to bone and gum tissue.
Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Periodontal disease is an infection in the oral cavity generated by unwanted bacteria or pathogens found in the dog's mouth. When dogs do not receive proper dental care, the bacteria found in food particles attach themselves to the gingival sulcus (i.e., the meeting point between teeth and gums). Over time, plaque becomes solidified and turns into tartar, a hard, calcified coat that covers both teeth and gums. Once it settles, tartar starts digging under the gums, allowing bacteria to reach the supporting tissues around the tooth and infect the area.
The immune system does not ignore the inflammation and tissue damage caused by the intruding bacteria and sends white blood cells to deal with the threat. Unfortunately, the white blood cells are both a blessing and a curse since they deal with the bacterial invaders by damaging the supporting structure of the tooth, in a process known as periodontitis.
With the onset of periodontal disease, the bacteria are free to attack the root of the tooth and disrupt its vital blood supply. The immune system responds to this threat by sending more white blood cells, whose accumulation gives rise to a tooth root abscess. Since the immune system cannot easily fight such deep bone infections, professional veterinary medical care often becomes mandatory.
Stages of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
If left untreated, periodontal disease can go through five distinct stages, which all require certain forms of treatment and medications:
- Stage 0: Your dog's gums are flat and pink and create a scalloped edge against the teeth without inflammation. The tartar starts to develop. You can address this stage of periodontal disease in your dog with professional or at-home teeth cleaning using an enzyme paste, ultrasonic toothbrush and homemade dog friendly toothpaste recipes.
- Stage 1: Your dog's gums become slightly swollen and red. You might see a red line at the gumline. The tartar buildup becomes more pronounced. At this stage, it is recommended that you approach teeth cleaning gently since brushing your dog's teeth will cause him slight pain.
- Stage 2: Your dog's gums remain swollen and red. At this stage, the tartar starts to dig under the gum and cause bone loss. Seeking professional help becomes imperative in order to avoid advanced bone loss.
- Stage 3: Advanced bone loss can be observed through X-rays and CT Scans.
- Stage 4: If the tooth loses too much bone tissue, extraction becomes the sole treatment option available.
Signs of Periodontal Disease in Dogs
The periodontal disease manifests itself through multiple symptoms, such as:
- Bad breath
- Tooth discoloration
- Loose teeth
- Plaque and tartar buildup in the gingival sulcus
- Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
- Shying away from being touched in the mouth area
- Appetite loss
Aggravating Periodontal Disease in Dogs
As we mentioned earlier, canine periodontal disease can indirectly spread to other organs. Bacteria settling in the mouth push the oral microbiome towards the stomach and disrupt the gut microbiome. The latter's immune responses can give rise to various medical issues in your dog's body. Moreover, the bacteria found in the infected tooth roots can travel through the bloodstream (i.e., bacteremia) and damage multiple other organs directly. Research shows that the organs most likely to be affected by canine periodontal disease are:
- Kidneys: Intestinal nephritis and glomerulonephritis.
- Liver: Hepatic parenchymal inflammation and hepatopathy.
- Heart: Endocarditis, mitral regurgitation, and myocardial degeneration.
- Nervous system: Occasionally, bacteria cross the blood-brain barrier and cause meningitis.
Breeds Predisposed to Canine Periodontal Disease
Certain dog breeds are at a disadvantage right from the start; poor nutrition, vaccinations, or genetic factors play a significant part in their poor oral health. Toy breeds, such as Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, and Chihuahuas, are notorious examples of poor oral health due to overcrowding or teeth, which causes bacteria buildup, gingivitis, abscesses, and other gum diseases. Other breeds, this time with a flatter facial design, such as Bulldogs, Boxers, and Shih Tzus, exhibit the same propensity towards oral health issues. Age and a poor dental care regimen for years on end can exacerbate dental issues for these breeds.
Preventing Periodontal Disease in Dogs
Although a common sight in many of our canine companions, canine periodontal disease can be halted and reversed through a series of prevention methods. Let's dive into this subject and learn the optimal ways to keep your dog's teeth and gums healthy!
#1: DIY Periodontal Disease Prevention
The first step in keeping your dog free of periodontal disease is DIY care. Akin to humans, dogs require dental care, which they frequently try to achieve themselves through methods such as chewing on a meaty bone. The dog parent can level up canine dental care by creating a daily oral care regimen for their dog from a fragile age. Start by helping your dog to become accustomed to things touching his mouth, then implement a toothbrushing schedule for your canine. As long as you use a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste, he will welcome the oral care regimen. Make sure that you check out our natural teeth cleaning blog (hyperlink to the Natural Dog Teeth Cleaning blog - November 2021) to learn how to pick the optimal toothbrush and toothpaste for optimal dental care!
#2: Vet Visits for a Professional Dental Cleaning
The DIY dental care removes plaque and tartar only at a surface level. For breeds with higher periodontal disease risk, we recommend that you schedule biannual visits to the veterinarian for full mouth dental radiographs and professional dental cleaning, especially when you notice brown or yellow stains on your dog's teeth. During a professional dental cleaning session, the veterinarian can access the bone tissue underneath the gums (60% of the tooth is located under the gums) and remove any invading bacteria. Although performed under anesthesia, professional dental cleaning is the only way of ensuring thorough dental care for your dog.
#3: Choosing Volhard for Dogs with Periodontal Disease
The last step in your periodontal disease prevention plan is choosing a diet that inhibits disease progression in your dog. If your canine is already suffering from periodontal disease, he's probably already having issues chewing hard food. For that reason, it's imperative that you switch from hard foods such as dry kibble to a hydrated, easily-digestible diet that can be digested easily even if there is minimal chewing.
The Volhard Natural Diet is the perfect answer for any dog with periodontal disease or missing teeth. Its tooth-friendly formula calls for little dental maintenance from the dog parent. Moreover, with its correct acid/alkaline balance and decreased carbohydrates, the Volhard Natural Diet provides a less maintenance, tooth-friendly environment. Together with regular bone consumption and the addition of the homeopathic remedy called Fragaria in your dog's diet, you can ensure your canine friend of the best natural dental care possible!
A Parting Reminder
Canine periodontal disease does not have to affect your canine friend. As long as you implement a rigorous dental care regimen from a young age, your dog will stay away from periodontal disease and other oral issues and enjoy solid dental health. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us or check out our blog!