What are Enlarged Gums?
Enlarged gums in dogs, clinically known as gingivitis, is the sign of a bacterial infection in the dog’s oral cavity. Gum disease is a common ailment of most dogs occurring after age 2 and can cause many other health problems and complications if left untreated. Most gingivitis, if caught in the early stages, is highly treatable and does not endanger the dog’s health any further. However, if left ignored, gingivitis has the ability to progress into the more serious form of periodontitis. Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gingivitis that attacks the integrity of the tooth by invading the space under the gumline with harmful bacteria that leads to decay and eventual tooth loss. At that point, the dog is in danger of malnutrition and dehydration from the lack of ability to manage oral nutrition. There is also a high risk of bacteria entering the bloodstream and causing further damage to the dog’s other organs.Gingival hyperplasia is the medical condition in which an owner will notice that their dog's gum tissue is inflamed, enlarged, and otherwise thickened. In most cases, the tissue enlargement will be correlated to general dental plaque or bacterial growths in the pockets of the gums or along the gum line.
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Symptoms of Enlarged Gums in Dogs
It is important to monitor your dog’s eating habits and pay close attention to the appearance of their teeth and gums because symptoms are not always noticeable until the disease has progressed. Remember, if caught in the early stages, this disease is highly treatable and will not put the dog through unnecessary extra procedures. Symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Excessive drooling
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Pawing at mouth
- Blood in saliva
- Reddening of gum tissue
- Swelling of gum tissue
- Possible swollen glands nearby indicating infection
There are two main types of enlarged gums in dogs:
- Gingivitis - Inflammation of the gums caused by bacterial plaque: reversible and highly treatable, usually occurs within 2-3 years of age and can be controlled with routine oral hygiene maintenance if caught early.
- Periodontitis - Advanced inflammation in the tissue surrounding the tooth: irreversible damage as the disease had progressed past the gum line and attacked the bone, ligaments, and gums. Usually occurring in ages 4-6, periodontitis occurs after years of untreated gingivitis and ultimately results in tooth loss.
Causes of Enlarged Gums in Dogs
The main causes of enlarged gums in dogs are preventable as long as proper care is taken to ensure the dog is in a safe environment and has routine check-ups. The most common causes are:
- Poor nutrition
- Improper chewing of sharp objects not intended as food (i.e. plant fronds, splintered bones, pieces of wood, etc.)
- Lack of oral hygiene / routine dental checks
- Breed - some smaller dog breeds are more prone to dental ailments
- Improper maintenance and/or treatment of diabetes
- Low immunity
Diagnosis of Enlarged Gums in Dogs
The veterinarian will most likely be able to identify any qualifying factors during the dog’s routine check-up’s. If he or she feels as though your dog’s gums have become inflamed, the next course of action will be to take X-rays to make sure the disease has not spread to the bone in the form of the more advanced periodontitis. This, coupled with your observations of symptoms, will help determine the best course of action to help fight the disease.
Treatment of Enlarged Gums in Dogs
Treatment of enlarged gums depends almost entirely on the severity and progression of the gingivitis. If caught in the early stages, a professional oral cleaning above and below the gumline complete with scaling the teeth, brushing and polishing will remedy any problems. It is also a good idea to have a sealant applied to the teeth to help keep bacteria at bay. Routine maintenance will further prevent future recurrence. If the cleaning does not take care of the problem, further evaluation will be needed to check for an underlying immune system dysfunction or another cause such as Diabetes. For more advanced cases and periodontitis, there may be a need for antibiotics to treat the infection. In severe cases that cannot be remedied by cleaning, the teeth will be extracted.
Recovery of Enlarged Gums in Dogs
Recovery is highly likely and manageable through routine oral home care and scheduled veterinarian check-ups. Some preventative measures started at a young age can help with your dog’s oral hygiene along the way. Nutritionally, feeding your dog hard kibble is recommended, as the mechanics of breaking up the pieces tends to help scrape plaque off of the teeth and gum line simply by eating. Additionally, the veterinarian may supply an oral rinse or gel to aid in plaque prevention. Always make sure your pet is chewing and playing with objects that are safe and will not puncture or damage teeth or gums to cause swelling or present a place for infection to take hold.
Enlarged Gums Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my dog is three. about a week ago i was playing tug a war with him when i noticed his front gums were bleeding (not a lot it just seemed as if he had scraped it or made a little cut) it did not seem to bother him. about two days later i had realized his gums and lip had become puffed out. it has not gone away since and im becoming worried.
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our 8 month old puppy has enlarged gums and bad breath. what do we do?
he has very unpleasant breath a little like he has eaten manure. his gums on the left hand side of his mouth are swollen and red.
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