Gum Disease in Dogs: Signs and Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Gum Disease in Dogs: Signs and Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Just as humans are susceptible to various forms of oral afflictions and disease, our canine friends are as well. And the potential for severe health issues is also a concern, especially in regard to gum disease. Bacteria are everywhere in a dog’s body but when they transform to plaque under their gums it can lead to gum disease.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the most common dental condition found in adult dogs and often misdiagnosed as tartar buildup. In fact, bacterial plaque is the culprit, which is very adept at finding all kinds of places to hide within a dog’s gums.

What is gum disease?

Simply stated, gum disease is a severe oral bacterial infection and one of its worst features is it is usually silent, with no outward signs or symptoms. Once it takes hold, gum disease can be devastating to a dog’s mouth, causing eroded gums, chronic pain, tooth loss, and even bone loss.

Where does gum disease come from? Blame it on bacteria. The same is true for dogs and their human owners; immediately after we eat, food, saliva, bacteria, and other intrusive elements start forming plaque and plaque is bad. It actually causes our immune systems to recognize it as a foreign intruder, and the body then sends out legions of white blood cells to attack. At the same time, bacteria in plaque sends out its own army of white blood cells and the battle leads to gum inflammation, bone loss and tooth loss.

The bad news is gum disease occurs five times more in dogs than in people, due to the alkalinity in their mouths, which subsequently causes plaque to form. In addition, the instigating bacteria have plenty of opportunity to multiply since most dogs’ teeth don’t receive a good brushing every day.

Symptoms of gum disease

Gum disease doesn’t play fair either. In fact, its earliest symptoms are none at all. Pet owners rarely notice signs of gum disease and all the while, your dog could be living with chronic pain. Remember that animals’ instincts are to hide pain so as not to show weakness and although you likely won’t see it, here are some gum disease signs to look for:

Bad breath

A dog’s breath is typically not pleasant but many pet owners believe it simply comes with the territory. While slightly off-putting aroma is expected, very bad breath in dogs is most definitely not normal and is a telltale sign of gum disease.


If you notice redness or swelling in your dog’s gums, schedule a vet visit to check for gum disease.

Receding gums

Gum disease causes separation of gums from teeth and is a common signal that gum disease is present. In fact, advanced stages of gum disease cause gum tissue to recede and expose tooth roots, which can be extremely painful.

Bleeding gums

If your dog’s gums bleed when chewing or when you brush her teeth, this might be a sign of gum disease in the works.

Other symptoms can include loose teeth, blood in their water bowl or on chew toys, lumps in the mouth, and frequent sneezing.

Treatment of gum disease

If gingivitis in your dog is promptly treated, it can be reversed before it reaches full-scale gum disease. The best way to prevent gum disease is brushing your dog’s teeth a minimum of twice a week. Many chews and water additives can help but should only be used in tandem with and not as replacement for brushing.

It is also important to maintain your dog’s overall oral health including regular checkups and professional dental cleaning.

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We know your dog is a cherished member of your family, so our entire team shares a commitment to provide the best, most compassionate veterinary care for your dog. We offer a variety of dog services to in the Pflugerville/Austin-Round Rock, TX area including vaccinesdental careweight managementsenior care, and more. Call (512) 251-BARK today to learn more!