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What is Gum Disease?

Bacterial colonization results in erosion of the gums, teeth and bone, causing chronic pain and tooth and bone loss. Gum disease increases the risk of heart, kidney and liver disease in dogs and is preventable if dental hygiene measures are taken throughout life. Symptoms are often noted in older dogs with advanced periodontal disease, though over 80 percent of dogs have early stages of gum disease by age three.

Periodontal disease (or gum disease) is the weakening and eventual loss of the supporting structures of the teeth. Gum disease can cause significant harm to a dogs mouth, including eroded gums, bad breath, missing teeth, bone loss, and chronic pain.

Gum Disease Average Cost

From 154 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$800

Symptoms of Gum Disease in Dogs

There are often no obvious signs in the early stages of gum disease. By the time symptoms are noticed, the pet may be in advanced stages. Symptoms of advanced periodontal disease include:

  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty eating
  • Drooling
  • Irritability or anti-social behavior
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Blood in water bowl or on chew toys
  • Bad breath
Types

There are various stages in the development of gum disease. The stages are based on observations of the teeth and gums.

  1. Stage I

    : Mild redness and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) is seen near the teeth.

  2. Stage II

    : Probing indicates periodontal pockets have formed between the gum and tooth. Pockets over 3mm in depth indicate abnormal gingiva.

  3. Stage III

    : Periodontal pockets are measured at deeper than 5mm and bone loss is observed.

  4. Stage IV

    : Greater than 40-50 percent bone loss, extensive tarter buildup and gum recession.

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Causes of Gum Disease in Dogs

Gum disease begins with bacteria, food and salvia combining to form plaque. The plaque coats the teeth and, within 2-3 days, combines with minerals and hardens into tartar. Our body’s immune system attempts to fight the bacteria in plaque and in turn causes the gums to become red and inflamed. Tarter continues to build and begins to pry the gums away from the teeth. This creates pockets of open space between the teeth and gums where bacteria can multiply. Abscesses can form and tissue is destroyed. Teeth become loose and bone deteriorates.

Some factors that contribute to the development of gum disease include:

  • Age
  • General health
  • Diet
  • Chewing behaviors
  • Genetics
  • Tooth alignment
  • Grooming habits
  • Dental hygiene
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Diagnosis of Gum Disease in Dogs

If you suspect your pet may have symptoms of gum disease, or in order to prevent gum disease, bring your pet to the veterinarian for an oral examination. Your vet will want to know your pet’s eating habits, chewing habits, and the onset of any symptoms of gum disease.

A brief physical exam can detect inflamed gums and tartar buildup, however a full oral examination can only be conducted under general anesthesia. If the veterinarian suspects gum disease, she will recommend a dental prophy, a procedure that will further examine the teeth and gums and provide a full cleaning under anesthesia. So the pet doesn’t have to undergo anesthesia more than once, it is recommended to initiate treatment or perform any extractions at the same time the cleaning is done.

Dental Examination

During a dental prophy under anesthesia, the pet’s teeth and gums will be scaled, cleaned and polished. A calibrated periodontal probe will be inserted between the gumline and each tooth to measure the presence and depth of pockets. If more than 3mm of distance is noted, some form of periodontal abnormality is present.

Dental X-Ray

Up to 60 percent of periodontal disease takes place below the gumline. Dental x-ray is an invaluable tool in visualizing bone loss and deterioration.

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Treatment of Gum Disease in Dogs

If the veterinarian suspects gum disease is present in your pet, she will likely schedule an appointment for a dental prophy and any surgery or extractions. Since these procedures are conducted under general anesthetic, pre-anesthetic bloodwork will be recommended. Depending on the stage of disease, antibiotics may be administered prior to a dental procedure to prevent the spread of bacteria as a result of dental work. A complete oral exam and probing is only possible under anesthesia. Once the oral examination is done, including x-rays, then a treatment plan is created. Only then will the veterinarian know if any teeth need extraction or other treatments are needed. The oral examination and then the required treatments will all be done under the same anesthesia.

For stage I or II periodontal disease, a complete dental cleaning above and below the gumline will remove plaque. Tartar will be removed with an ultrasonic scaler. Polishing will fill in crevices on the surface of the teeth to prevent bacterial attachment and plaque buildup.

For stage III or IV periodontal disease, after cleaning and scaling, probing and dental x-ray will allow the veterinarian to determine the degree of damage and treatment protocol. Several treatment options are available:

  • Planing and subgingival curettage

    – These techniques remove tarter, diseased tooth and diseased tissue and smooth the root surface.

  • Gingivectomy

    – Refers to removal of excess or diseased gingiva (gums).

  • Periodontal surgery

    – A procedure that opens the gum to expose the tooth root for deeper cleaning and treatment. Slow-release antibiotics, sealants and bone growth stimulants can be added to promote attachment and healing.

  • Extraction

    – In cases of loose, cracked or dying teeth, extraction can be the best option.

Periodontal disease does irreversible damage. However, the treatment of current conditions combined with future preventative care (proper diet, teeth brushing, chew toys, dental treats) can keep disease from progressing further and keep your pet in good health.

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Recovery of Gum Disease in Dogs

Depending on the treatment, follow-up appointments may be required to assess healing. If surgery or extractions are involved, pain medications and antibiotics will need to be administered for several weeks. You may need to feed your pet a soft diet or his normal kibble soaked in warm water and eliminate hard chew toys for 3-4 weeks to allow the teeth and gums to heal.

Periodontal disease is irreversible and only controllable. Therefore, preventative dental hygiene is the best way to keep your dogs teeth healthy. Start with brushing your dog’s teeth as a puppy and schedule annual dental cleanings with your veterinarian.

Brush your pet’s teeth twice daily to minimize bacteria. Animal approved toothpastes are available at most pet stores and are flavored so most dogs learn to tolerate and even enjoy tooth brushing. A child’s soft-bristled toothbrush can be used. Position your pet comfortably , and gently introduce the brush with the toothpaste, adding a few seconds each day to brushing time until the pet adapts.

Take your dog for regular oral examinations and schedule annual cleanings to remove any tartar that has built up and give the teeth a full cleaning.

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Gum Disease Average Cost

From 154 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$800

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Gum Disease Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Logan/Sadie

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Dachshund

dog-age-icon

11 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Bad Breath

We have 3 miniature dachshunds and 2 of them went in for dentals today. We have taken them every other year previously. When the vet called today to follow up, he recommended 16 extractions for each of them (+/-). $1,800 for one, and $2,400 for the other. We weren’t prepared to hear this, and fortunately we can afford it. My question is whether or not you would do this? The older is an 11 yr old male, and the younger is a 9 yr old female. We told them to go ahead with the female, but male was already recovered when we spoke...so he’ll have to go back.

March 5, 2018

Logan/Sadie's Owner

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0 Recommendations

It all depends on the condition of the teeth and the underlying jawbone, without examining the teeth of either dog I cannot say whether I would consider them for full dental extraction or not. It is one of the decisions made either during a general examination or during a cleaning, I cannot say whether I would do so in either of your dogs. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

March 5, 2018

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Kenya

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Boxer

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bleeding Gums
Euplis
Severe Bad Breath
Rotten Teeth
Smacking

Hi there, my 9.5 year old boxer has epulis and severe bad breath. The euplis has encassed some of her teeth as well. Her front teeth are fine and white, but as soon as you get to the sides, some you can't see, and others are brown/grey and look rotten. The thing is, she's been on heart meds for 3.5 years for cardiomyopathy and is unable to have surgery to remove any teeth or do any cleaning. Anytime she chews on toys, her gums bleed and she smacks her mouth a lot, I'm presuming cause it bothers her to close down completely sometimes. She eats a raw diet and I have her on some that is pre-made so it's soft and malleable for her, no hard bones to chew. I feel bad that I can't take her in for surgery, but is there anything I can do to help it at the stage it's at? Can a dental vet do anything other than surgery???

Feb. 23, 2018

Kenya's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. There isn't any therapy for gingival hyperplasia other than surgery, unfortunately. Without examining Kenya, I can't comment on her condition, but it would be worth a visit to her veterinarian to have her assessed, have her mouth looked at, and to determine if she needs to be on pain medication to control her mouth inflammation. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Feb. 24, 2018

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Tippy

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Chihuahua

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Mouth Odor
Blisters
Halitosis
Mouth Blisters

Hello, my finances dog Tippy I think is 7 years old. His mother owned her before us and fed her mostly candy. Now many of her teeth have fallen out and rotted and she has very bad breath. And today for the first time we noticed blisters in her mouth and she keeps lining and moving her tongue and her jaw is shaking a little. We are worried about her but are afraid to go to a vet and they tell us to put her down and we would need a payment plan or something. We love her and are worried.

Jan. 21, 2018

Tippy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Tippy should be seen by a Veterinarian to assess the oral health and to determine how many teeth need to be extracted; I understand your reluctance to visit but these cases this severe rarely can be managed at home and can turn more severe over night. Talk with some charity clinics in your area to see if they can help with the cost of dental cleaning and extractions; you could try to brush Tippy’s teeth with dog toothpaste but I think we are past this at the moment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 22, 2018

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Sugar

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Chihuaha terrier mix

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12 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Gum By Canine. Sneezing.

My dogs teeth have been in pretty bad shape for a while. She's lost one or two just by biting something too hard. She's been sneezing on and off all day long for 2 weeks. Could it be gum disease?

Jan. 9, 2018

Sugar's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Poor dental hygiene may cause a variety of issues within a dog’s mouth, most importantly tooth root abscess and other issues may extend up into the nasal cavity causing problems which may start to present as sneezing. Without examining Sugar, I cannot say whether or not the cause of the sneezing is due to poor dental hygiene, upper respiratory tract infection, foreign objects, parasites, allergies or chemical irritation (among other causes). You should visit your Veterinarian for an examination. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Jan. 9, 2018

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banjo

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Aspin

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15 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Hoarse Barking
Red Eyes
Swelling Nose
Half Opened Mouth
Tongue Slides Out
Frequently Licking Mouth And Nose
Unable To Put Food Down
Loses Appetite
Frequent Drinking
Lump Over His Nose
Swelling Gums
Reddened Gums
Unable To Chew
Warm To Touch Mouth
Body Weakness

i checked my dog's mouth if there's something stuck through his teeth or throat but there wasnt. his voice changed and mouth is always half opened for 3 days. what should i do?

Oct. 23, 2017

banjo's Owner


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recommendation-ribbon

0 Recommendations

Swelling of the vocal cords may cause a change in the sound of a bark and may be due to infection or inflammation; with Banjo not closing his mouth completely may be due to inflammation of the trigeminal nerve. I would highly suggest you visit your Veterinarian for Banjo to be examined to confirm a diagnosis and for him to receive treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Oct. 23, 2017

My Yorkie is 10 years old and the vets we have taken him to say that can’t under go the anistatic because he has a collapse trachea and would not make it through the surgery. He has an infection in his gums what do I do?

Nov. 2, 2017

Sandy Bryce

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Trixie

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Beagle

dog-age-icon

20 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Circling
Sneezing
Congestion
Teeth

Our girl Trixie is a 20 years old beagle and is just now starting to show her age. She has always had an organic grain free diet (same as any treats), plenty of exercise, and minimum medical care (including only having vaccines as a puppy) She will pace counterclockwise in circles and has a sneeze that produces yellow/green mucus. What's left of her teeth are decayed, dark gums, and foul breath. We recently switched to softer food as she will not attempt dry kibble anymore. Veterinarians will not see her because she is not up to date with her shots, is there an alternative? We don't think she could handle any surgery at this stage in her life. We are also afraid that they will tell us to put her down.

Gum Disease Average Cost

From 154 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$800

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