Why Gum Disease Can Be Fatal for Dogs: How to Spot it + Prevent it

Think your dog’s mouth is cleaner than yours? Think again.

Plaque has the perfect breeding ground inside your dog’s highly alkalized mouth. With pH levels several times higher than that of a human’s, bacteria have the ideal conditions to multiply and create dangerous plaque formations.

In fact, by the time Fido hits age three, they’re more than likely among the 80% of dogs who have some form of periodontal (gum) disease. When left untreated, this highly common phenomenon can lead to potentially fatal diseases of the heart, kidney and liver.

Fortunately, by knowing what symptoms to look for and ways to prevent gum disease, you can help care for your dog’s teeth before its health is compromised.

What Are Some Common Symptoms of Gum Disease in Dogs?

Part of what makes gum disease so dangerous for dogs is that the first “symptoms” are often entirely asymptomatic. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it could be very easy to miss them altogether.

Equally troubling is the fact that once the symptoms are present, it may mean gum disease is already quite advanced. Though your animal may try to hide the fact that it’s physically uncomfortable, these advanced stages often come with chronic pain.

Severe gum disease typically includes symptoms such as:

  • Trouble eating
  • Inflamed or bleeding gums
  • Blood in the saliva, water bowl or on toys
  • Loose teeth
  • Visible lumps inside the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Refusal to chew on one side of the mouth
  • Whimpering when eating or yawning
  • Sensitivity to head being touched

There’s one additional symptom that’s worth singling out. If you see your dog sneezing or notice snot coming from their nose, take action. Over time advanced gum disease can erode the bone barrier that separates your dog’s nasal cavity from its oral cavity.

dog chew toy

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting Gum Disease?

You don’t have to wait until there’s an issue to start preventative treatment. Create a good oral care regimen for your dog with these best practices:

  1. Make regular home cleanings a priority. There’s a reason your dentist recommends brushing everyday. It’s the best way to prevent bacteria from forming dangerous plaque colonies (not to mention just about the only way to stay on top of bad breath.) The same holds true for your pet! Ask your vet about which gels and tools are best for their mouth. Most will vary by age, size and stage of disease.
  2. Get routine oral exams. Many oral issues lay silent and only show signs of decay beneath the gum line. Ask your vet to conduct a dental X-ray during your next check up. The older your pet, the more likely there’s more going on than meets the eye.
  3. Buy only quality dog food.Purchasing high-end dog food works twofold. Not only does it help their systems function well from the inside out, dry dog food will also act as a natural cleaner. Due to the “crunchy” aspect of dry dog food, it will naturally scrape plaque off the teeth during meals.
  4. Be selective about toys and treats. Help your dog snack and play safely by purchasing toys and treats that are designed for daily chewing.The more they chew, the less likely plaque can form and lead to gum disease. You’ll want to stay away from hard toys and treats like bones or hooves. These can cause teeth to fracture or break. Instead, look for healthy dog treats such as rawhides, freeze dried chews and toys made from rubber with space for treats inside.

Ultimately, if you’re operating under the assumption that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s, you could be setting your furry friend up for some major health complications. Keeping your dog’s teeth clean is about more than just oral care. Done right, it can save their life!

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