Effects of Gingivitis on Dogs
Gingivitis is the first stage of a process that, if not addressed, will progress to a more serious condition called periodontitis. Owners should take their dogs’ dental care very seriously. Untreated dental disease can ultimately lead to life-threatening disease as a result of the proliferation of bacteria and the spread of bacteria throughout a dog’s blood stream. Dogs with gingivitis will have sore mouths. Their gums will hurt, and they may even bleed now and then. They may be reluctant to chew on bones or rawhides, and they may also be reluctant to eat their normal amount of food.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
In the early stages of gingivitis, dogs may show mild signs of inflammation of their gums. As the disease progresses, the symptoms will progress as well. Dogs with gingivitis typically will show one or more of the following clinical signs, depending upon the stage and severity of their disease:
- Bad breath (halitosis; this is one of the hallmarks of dental disease in dogs)
- Swollen gums (edematous gingiva)
- Red gums (erythemic gingiva)
- Bleeding gums (gingiva bleed easily with light pressure)
- Ulcerated gums
- Plaque build-up (“stained teeth”)
- Calculus build-up (“tartar”)
- Irregular gingival (gum line) surfaces
- Pus oozing from the gum line upon contact
- Difficulty chewing
- Reluctance to eat (despite obvious hunger)
- Excessive salivation (drooling; ptyalism)
- Loose teeth
As gingivitis worsens, the dog’s gums may visibly appear to recede. Unfortunately, affected dogs often resist close inspection of their oral cavities, because this condition can be extremely painful. It can be quite challenging for a veterinarian to get a good look at the mouth of a dog with gingivitis.
Dogs at Increased Risk
Miniature Poodles and Toy Poodles, and other small breeds, are predisposed to dental disease, including gingivitis. Brachycephalic breeds – those with broad skulls and short, flat faces (such as Pugs, Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Pekingese, King Charles Cavalier Spaniels, etc.) are also at increased risk of developing gingivitis. These dogs tend to develop dental disease due to the extreme crowding of teeth in their tiny or abnormally formed jaws, which reduces the effectiveness of natural cleaning mechanisms. Poor nutrition can also contribute to gingivitis. Dogs that chew on bones, are given crunchy dog biscuits and are primarily fed a high-quality hard dry kibble seem less prone to developing periodontal disease than dogs that are fed primarily a soft or moist diet. Dogs with diabetes mellitus have an increased risk of gingivitis, because that disease affects their metabolism and promotes the accumulation of pathogenic bacteria in the oral cavity.