Top 5 questions about periodontal disease

canine dentistry closeup

An anesthetized canine patient undergoes a teeth cleaning at the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre. Photo: Michael Raine.

What’s the most frequently diagnosed disease in all ages of dogs? Periodontal disease, says Dr. Candace Grier-Lowe, assistant professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences.

“I would say about nine out of 10 patients that we see in the WCVM’s Veterinary Medical Centre for routine procedures and yearly exams and vaccines have some type of periodontal disease,” says Grier-Lowe, who completed her veterinary dentistry residency in July 2011.

Grier-Lowe answers the top five questions about periodontal disease — a local infection of an animal’s periodontal tissues (gums).

Q. What are the stages of periodontal disease?

  • Stage 1: gingivitis without loss of attachment to tooth
  • Stage 2: less than 25 per cent loss of attachment to tooth
  • Stage 3: 25 to 50 per cent loss of attachment to tooth
  • Stage 4: greater than 50 per cent loss of attachment to tooth

Q. What are the clinical signs?

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums
  • Plaque and calculus build-up
  • Gum recession
  • Difficulty chewing or abnormal chewing (such as chewing only on one side)
  • Unwilling to eat or play with their toys
  • Pawing and rubbing at mouth
  • Tooth mobility or loss
  • Discharge from the nose or mouth

Q. What types of dogs are more likely to develop the disease?

  • Small breeds, especially those with short faces. These types of dogs have the same number of teeth, but not the same amount of room in their mouth for all those teeth.
  • Dogs with hormonal problems, kidney issues or an immune deficiency
  • Dogs that are not fed a dental diet. One myth is that ordinary dry kibble is sufficient for cleaning a dog’s teeth. As soon as a dog bites into a piece of kibble it explodes into many tiny pieces, having no effect on plaque. Dental diets are formulated in such a way that they don’t explode on contact. They actually mold to the tooth to reduce plaque build-up.

Q. What are the systemic effects of the disease?

Periodontal disease affects more than just the mouth. Bacteria and bacterial by-products can travel throughout the body affecting the heart, kidneys and liver.

Q. How can periodontal disease be prevented?

Although a professional dental cleaning for your pet is generally unavoidable, you could significantly reduce the frequency of these dental cleanings by adding the above to your pet’s daily dental care routine.


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