The risks for periodontal disease increase 20 percent each year of a pet’s life, according to data just released by Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge.
In fact, nearly four out of five dogs over the age of three show signs of oral disease, reports Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, Banfield’s chief medical officer. "In our practice, 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over the age of three have oral disease, and that is usually periodontal disease.”
The breeds at greatest risk for developing periodontal disease include:
| || |
As you can see from the Banfield statistics, periodontal disease is present in nearly 80 percent of all dogs past the age of three.
Small breed dogs are more susceptible to gum disease due to tooth crowding. Just as is the case with humans, too many teeth crowded into a small space can be difficult to thoroughly clean, leading to an increased accumulation of plaque.
While the 10 breeds listed may be particularly prone to gum disease, the disturbing statistics indicate it is clearly a problem affecting every breed and mixed breeds as well.
I consider this a true health crisis for companion animals, and as I discussed in another recent article, gum disease can lead to other serious health problems for your dog.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal or gum disease is an inflammation of some or all of a tooth’s deep supporting structures. The condition usually starts with inflammation of a single tooth.
Stage or grade 1 periodontal disease presents as gingivitis but without separation of the gum from the tooth. There will typically be some plaque and mild gum redness. The problem is reversible at this stage.
In stage or grade 2 of the disease, there will be plaque below the gum line, redness and swelling, and perhaps some loss of attachment of teeth to gums. The condition is still reversible at this stage.
Stage or grade 3 will feature calculus (tartar) below the gum line causing from 10 to 30 percent loss of bone support, redness, swelling, bleeding and obvious gum recession. The condition at this stage is irreversible.
Stage or grade 4 is marked by significant amounts of calculus below the gum line, severe inflammation, gum recession, loose and missing teeth, pus and bleeding from the gums. Bone loss will be over 30 percent, and the condition is irreversible.
How Gum Disease Starts
The process starts with bits of food and bacteria that remain in your dog’s mouth after she eats. This residue forms a layer of plaque on her teeth and gums.
Left alone, this plaque will soon harden to tartar which sticks to your dog’s teeth. A buildup of tartar will irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed. This is the condition known as gingivitis mentioned earlier. The inflammation causes your dog’s gums to turn from a healthy pink color to red.
If the tartar is allowed to remain, it will build up under your pup’s gums. Eventually, this build up will cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
How quickly plaque, tartar and gum disease develop in your dog’s mouth depends on a number of factors including her age, overall health, diet, breed, genetics, and the care her teeth receive from both you and your veterinarian.
Signs that your pup has periodontal disease can include:
- Bad breath
- Difficulty chewing
- Mouth sensitivity
- Pawing at the mouth
- Red, inflamed, bleeding gums
- Tooth loss
- Loss of appetite
- Stomach or other digestive problems
- Irritable or depressed mood
If you suspect your canine companion has gum disease, make an appointment with your holistic veterinarian or pet wellness center as soon as possible. If disease is present, you and your vet will need to take immediate steps to arrest the problem at the earliest stage possible.
Prevention Should Always Be Your Goal
Your beloved pet needs your help to keep his teeth and gums in good condition.
Many breeds, even consuming a species appropriate, raw diet and chewing on raw bones, are still prone to gum disease. Recognizing this early in your dog’s life is critical for reducing disease later.
A clean mouth will not only save your dog’s teeth and gums from decay, it will also reduce his risk for other serious health problems which can result when bacteria from diseased gums gets into the bloodstream.
The occasional – even annual -- professional tooth cleaning by your veterinarian is just not enough to insure your pup’s good oral health. You need to brush your dog’s teeth at home, and make it a part of your daily routine.
Once you and your dog have learned the ropes, for an investment of just a few minutes of your time each day, you can make a tremendous positive impact on his oral hygiene and overall health.
Take a look at this informative video for tips on how to get started with a brushing routine.
Regular exams by your holistic veterinarian will still be necessary even after you’ve established a daily brushing routine. Your vet will look for problems you might not see or recognize. I often point out to pet owners certain teeth that need a little extra care, since a dog’s teeth don’t all accumulate plaque and tartar at the same rate.
Your vet will recommend a professional cleaning as necessary, but if you’re practicing consistent daily brushing, you could be pleasantly surprised to learn your dog doesn’t need his teeth cleaned by the vet quite as often.
I hope I’ve given you enough information to recognize how vitally important it is to your dog’s health to keep his mouth clean and free of plaque and tartar build up.
There are few things you can do for your canine companion that will benefit him more than taking care of his oral health.