Unfortunately, gum disease is most often silent, with no initial signs or symptoms. Once in advanced stages it can devastate your pet's mouth and body causing chronic pain, eroded gums, missing teeth, and bone loss. Fortunately, it can be prevented.

Like humans, gum disease in pets is caused by the build-up of bacteria. Almost immediately after an animal eats, bacteria, along with food particles, saliva, and other fragments form into a sticky film called plaque. The immune systems of both humans and animals considers plaque a foreign invader, signaling white blood cells to attack. As a result, the bacteria in plaque tells white blood cells to release enzymes that breakdown gum tissue. This leads to inflamed gums, destroyed tissue, and bone loss, aka tooth loss or decay.

Majority of pet owners don't notice any signs of gum disease in their pets, and if they do, the gum disease is most likely in its advanced stages.
Severe signs of gum disease include:
  • Problems picking up food
  • Red or bleeding gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood found in water bowls or on chew toys
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Making noises whilst eating or yawning
  • Lumps in the mouth
  • Bloody or ropey saliva
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Not wanting their head touched
  • Excessive sneezing or nasal discharge
Gum disease can cause more than just tooth pain or tooth loss. If left unchecked, gum disease could lead to heart, kidney, or liver disease and pathologic jaw fracture.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is five times more likely to occur in dogs than in humans. Being proactive about your pet's dental health is the best way to prevent or slow gum disease.
  1. Schedule regular oral exams and cleanings. Many veterinary practices offer discounts on dental exams and cleanings during the month of February.
  2. Brush your pet's teeth every day. Just like you, pets benefit from daily teeth brushing. While the task may seem daunting at first, they should become accustomed to the process in no time. All it takes is some patience and the proper tools.
  3. Feed your pet quality food. Some dental diets scrub your pet's teeth while they chew or include additives that help prevent the hardening of plaque.
  4. Offer toys and treats for daily chewing. Treats and toys that aren't hard, like rubber balls and toys, can help prevent gum disease.
Just as you keep up-to-date on your own health, it's important to do the same for your pets. They can't always tell us when something is wrong, so it's up to us as pet parents to be an advocate for their well-being - doing so ensures they live long, happy, healthy lives.