Periodontal Disease in Dogs

By Miguel E. Cordova, DVM

More than 85% of dogs over four years of age have periodontal disease. It starts when bacteria  form plaque on the teeth. Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth. The bacteria work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums. Once under the gums, bacteria destroy the supporting tissue around the tooth, leading to tooth loss. Inflammation of the bone and tooth support structures is referred to as periodontitis. The combination of gingivitis and periodontitis is known as periodontal disease. Bacteria associated with dental disease can travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver.

What Are the Signs of Periodontal Disease?

The signs of periodontal disease include: bad breath; redness or bleeding along the gum line; drooling, which may be tinged with blood; difficulty chewing; pawing at the mouth; loose or missing teeth; facial swelling, especially under the eyes; nasal discharge; and gum recession. 

How Is Periodontal Disease Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian can see signs of gingivitis and tartar buildup by examining your dog’s mouth. However, since most periodontal disease occurs beneath the gum line, the only way to truly assess your dog’s mouth is to perform an examination while your pet is under anesthesia. Your veterinarian can use a dental probe to measure any loss of attachment around each tooth and take dental radiographs (x-rays) to assess for bone loss, abscesses, and other problems.

How Is Periodontal Disease Treated?

Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. If your dog has mild periodontal disease, consisting of gingivitis without any bone loss, a thorough dental cleaning that includes the area beneath the gums, followed by dental polishing, can help reverse the problem. Your veterinarian may also recommend a dental sealant that helps prevent tartar from accumulating on teeth.

If there has been a loss of the supporting structures around the teeth, however, this cannot be reversed. Your veterinarian may need to apply antibiotics beneath the gums and perform dental procedures, which may include tooth extraction.

After a dental cleaning, your veterinarian may also recommend a plaque prevention gel that adheres to the teeth surfaces to inhibit tartar.

Ask your veterinarian which dental diets or treats are best for your pet and what dental hygiene methods are recommended. Don’t forget to keep scheduled appointments for follow-up dental checkups.

  • Animal Health Center @ Weston is “The Gentle Practice You Can Rely On”. Dr. Miguel E. Cordova and his staff are committed to caring for your precious pets. The practice is located at 2701 Executive Park Drive, Suite 1. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact 954-385-8389 or