At least four out of every five dogs develop a painful gum inflammation known as gingivitis. Owners can best help their pets by making sure the dog has regular dental care and being on the lookout for the classic warning signs of this condition.
Of all the dogs we rescued over the years, our English Cocker Spaniel was probably the most memorable. English Cocker Spaniels are much bigger than their American cousins. This one created an immediate impression with his voracious appetite. When he suddenly lost his appetite in middle age, we worried that he had some horrific disease. It never occurred to us that this was just one of the warning signs of gingivitis in dogs.
What is Gingivitis in Dogs?
According to PetPlace.com, gingivitis is an inflammation of the tissue making up a dog’s gums. Its most common cause is accumulated dental plaque that eventually morphs into tartar and builds up on the teeth, particularly at the gum line. However, the disorder can also be caused by a number of other irritants and diseases like trench mouth.
If canine gingivitis progresses sufficiently, it can result in tooth loss. DogPro.com reports that more than 80 percent of dogs eventually suffer from it. The severity of a case tends to correlate with the increasing age of the dog.
Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis
Had we taken a good look at our out-of-sorts pooch, we would have been spared a lot of worry. The classic warning signs of gingivitis in dogs include:
Red gums. This is the symptom veterinarians most often mention. Redness in a dog with gingivitis is easy to see along the gums at the base of the dog’s teeth, PetDoc states.
Bad breath. Owners might be initially tempted to conclude that the dog has consumed a no-no or has been a bit overzealous in chomping on a piece of rawhide. However, the presence of bad breath is also common in canine gingivitis.
Bloody mouth and gums. Owners of an afflicted dog sometimes spot blood in the dog’s mouth or even on its muzzle. This is particularly true when the dog has access to hard bones or toys.
Swollen gums. Even when there is no blood obvious in the dog’s mouth, the gums might look swollen. If infected, they might be draining.
Difficulty chewing food. The dog might have no other behavioral changes beyond having a tough time chewing food that used to be easy to eat.
Lack of appetite. A sudden lack of interest in food – particularly in an overweight dog – is a warning sign of gingivitis. The dog might even get up and walk away from a dish of food placed nearby.
Whining and discomfort. Gingivitis causes pain. Owners usually first notice it when their pet tries to eat. However, if the dog is sufficiently uncomfortable, whining can occur at any time and at any place in the home.
Treatment and Prevention
Most dogs will suffer as they age if they don’t receive regular dental care. An owner should ask the vet how to take care of the pet’s dental needs at home and what to do if the dog is resistant to actions like brushing its teeth. This is particularly true with toy breeds like Yorkies that are at an elevated risk for periodontal problems.
Once an owner notices any of the warning signs of gingivitis in dogs, it’s important to take the pet to the vet. The vet will use equipment similar to that utilized by dentists who treat humans to get the plaque out of the dog’s mouth. This usually requires anesthesia. In some cases, the vet must also extract affected teeth and might prescribe antibiotics. In addition to home treatment, follow-up care includes professional cleanings two or three times each year.