Does Your Older Dog Have Gum Disease?

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

dreamstimebrushingteethDo you brush your dog’s teeth twice a day? If not, lurking under his gums may be an accumulation of bacteria that starts out as gingivitis but can progress to periodontic disease. Generally there are no symptoms in the beginning … until it is too late! Left untreated, it can lead to chronic pain in your dog’s mouth and stomach and the loss of both bone and teeth. It could also be a precursor to kidney, heart and liver disease. Nobody would wish that on man’s best friend.

Gum disease is not just an illness for older dogs. It often appears around the age of three. What happens is that as soon as your dog eats, bacteria and saliva begin to form plaque on his teeth. If the plaque is not removed, the gums become inflamed, ultimately involving teeth having to be extracted.

Gum disease occurs five times more often in dogs than in humans, primarily because they have more alkaline in their mouth. However, gum disease can be easily prevented, if you’re ready to take some preventative steps.

Does your dog have bad breath? Bleeding gums? Tends to chew on one side of his mouth? These are all symptoms of periodontitis.

Here are some tips to help your older dog prevent gum disease:

  • Just like with people who are supposed to brush twice a day, dogs need their teeth brushed at least twice a week. Purchase a toothpaste that is made primarily for dogs.  Regular toothpaste may be hard on his stomach. Although they make toothbrushes just for dogs, you can also use a soft piece of gauze.
  • Many times your vet may recommend a vet who specializes in oral health. Under general anesthesia, this vet will take x-rays that can see below your dog’s gum line and give you a clearer picture of what is going on in your dog’s mouth. He will also perform a deep cleaning.
  • It helps your dog to have chew toys. In the case of dogs, chew toys are not a luxury, but they are a necessity. Chewing on bones and some toys helps to remove the tartar from your dog’s teeth. There are also many “treats” that promote oral health, such as Dentastix, but you have to do your research to make sure they don’t contain any bad ingredients.
  • Quality pet food. There are some “human” foods that are actually good for a dog. Raw carrots (cut into bite-size chunks) can help to decrease plaque and are good for your dog. Parsley is also a natural breath freshener that is safe for dogs to ingest unless their stomachs are sensitive to it.
  • Diet can contribute to your dog’s bad breath in a variety of ways. Make sure to feed your pets nutritionally balanced dog food.

Because it’s Per Oral Health Month, let’s make an extra effort to pay attention to our senior dog’s oral hygiene!

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.